Ex-Coinbase CTO Sounds Alarm on Potential Crypto Threat from Apple and Google

Balaji Srinivasan, a leading crypto entrepreneur and former chief technology officer (CTO) of Coinbase, has sounded the alarm on social media, cautioning that tech behemoths like Apple and Google might be coerced by authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere to extract private keys from their devices and apps. Srinivasan suspects that this move could be employed to channel funds to financially-strained governments.

Balaji Srinivasan opines that as Bitcoin’s prominence increases in the coming years, cash-strapped governments might resort to seizing people’s crypto. Although a traditional 51% mining attack isn’t currently feasible for the U.S., the nation could potentially pressure tech firms like Apple and Google “to search for private keys on their servers, devices, and browsers and to channel any confiscated funds to a cash-starved federal government,” Srinivasan declared on Twitter.

In his view, this wouldn’t be classified as cyberterrorism, but cyberwar. “It isn’t some anonymous hacker pilfering a file. It’s when the CEO of a company issues a legitimate directive to hack their customers,” he explained, alluding to an incident in 2022 when tech companies seemingly turned against their Russian customers. He further speculated that the potential targets could be billions of iPhones, Android phones, Mac laptops, Chrome browsers, Google Docs, and Gmail accounts, with China potentially following suit with Chinese smartphone manufacturers.

Srinivasan emphasized that if the operating system itself cannot be trusted, it creates a complicated scenario. He suggested that Linux could serve as a possible alternative, but warned that Linux-based devices might not scale quickly enough. He noted that “exchanges built on Linux are another potential solution, but those are inherently custodial and might also be susceptible to similar attacks.”

In his concluding remarks, the former Coinbase executive stated, “I don’t have all the solutions, but I aim to pose the question to stimulate our thoughts on the matter. It’s plausible that the solution is partially social or political, and not purely technological.”

Earlier in May, Srinivasan prematurely concluded a wager that Bitcoin’s price would reach $1 million by mid-June due to hyperinflation of the U.S. dollar. “I just torched a million to tell you they’re minting trillions,” he remarked in a blog post, alerting that the world isn’t just confronting a financial crisis, but a fiat crisis, with a potential collapse likely to surpass previous ones.