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A script-assisted process for setting up a minimal Raspberry Pi OS image for decrypting BIP38 private keys and using Electrum. It is designed and intended to be used on an airgapped setup to limit exposure of private keys to external devices and networks.

This is intended to be a high-security process, so please check the filed Issues section for any known issues before proceeding and also please file issues if there are any discovered concerns.

This may also be helpful for setting up an airgapped system to use Electrum with non-BIP38 keys via the importprivkey command. However, this process includes installing dependency packages specifically for the BIP38 cryptography which is not necessary if there is no intention of doing BIP38 decryption. This process may also be useful as part of a platform for generating private keys and addresses in an airgapped environment, however ensuring sufficient random entropy on the Raspberry Pi is not in scope for this procedure.


This script-assisted process is provided as-is under the MIT license and its provider assumes no responsibility or liability for its use.

Included scripts

  1. - Validates the checksums of the dependencies in the depends/ subfolder and installs them on the Raspbian system.

  2. - Takes a BIP38 passphrase-encrypted private key and a passphrase and creates an Electrum wallet file in a RAM-held tmpfs location which can be given as a parameter to Electrum's CLI interface for subsequent operations.

  3. Electrum-3.0.5.tar.gz - The full release of Electrum 3.0.5 will be unpacked and is subsequently usable on the image via the CLI and/or Python scripting interface. The GUI interface is not runnable due to the desktop environment not being included in the starting image.

  4. pybip38 - The entirety of this library is installed for the use of Its other API calls may also be useful.

Required Hardware

For the airgapped system:

  • Raspberry Pi board
  • Display
  • USB Keyboard
  • Power Supply
  • SD Card

For setting up the SD card:

  • A reasonably secure system with access to this repository and the Raspbian image. TAILS is a good suggestion but please use your own judgement for for your security profile.
  • A SD card reader

Software Dependencies

NOTE: this software has it's own terms and licences. The dependency packages are included here for convenience with checksums to help verify this is the exact known software intended under auditable revision control. The md5 and sha256 checksums are include the repository and are validated as part of You are encouraged to validate the integrity of all these packages independently.

  1. The official Raspbian lite OS image. (not included in this repository, must be fetched from the official mirror)

    $ wget
    $ sha256sum
  2. The official Electrum 3.0.5 release included in this repository.

    $ sha256sum Electrum-3.0.5.tar.gz 
    61ebc06782433f928853188762c6f3098bd3d08d54c34b5594233d196e51e01b  Electrum-3.0.5.tar.gz
  3. 27 Debian/Raspbian packages not included in the Raspbian lite image ( which includes python3-pip, libssl-dev and all underlying dependencies. These are required for meeting the dependencies of pybip38. These were originally fetched via aptitude from an internet-connected Raspberry Pi.

  4. 5 pip3 packages which includes pybip38and underlying dependencies. These were originally fetched via pip3 on an internet-connected Raspberry Pi.

OS Image Setup Instructions

  1. Obtain and verify the Raspbian Lite OS image. This process is based off of Use dd to copy the image in to the SD card. Example for the SD card appearing as /dev/mmcblk0 on the host OS:

    $ sha256sum
    $ unzip
    $ sudo dd if=2017-11-29-raspbian-stretch-lite.img of=/dev/mmcblk0 bs=1M status=progress
  2. Eject the SD card:

    $ sudo eject /dev/mmcblk0
  3. Boot the Raspberry Pi with the SD card image to allow the filesystem to automatically resize and then log in when prompted (username: pi, password: raspberry).

  4. While the Raspberry Pi is booted you may take the opportunity to set the keyboard map to us or whichever matches the keyboard you wish to use on this system:

    $ sudo nano /etc/default/keyboard

    and change the gb setting to us

  5. Also, while the Raspberry Pi is booted take the opportunity to disable swap for additional security:

    $ sudo apt-get remove dphys-swapfile
  6. Also, while the Raspberry Pi is booted, take the opportunity to disable bash history for additional security:

    $ history -c
    $ sudo nano /etc/profile

    and add the line set +o history to the bottom of the file

  7. If you have a Raspberry Pi model with a wireless network interface, you might want to take the opportunity to hard disable it for additional security.

    (instructions not included since it varies based on the Raspberry Pi model - if you have something reliable to say here, a pull request would be appreciated)

  8. Safely shut down the Raspberry Pi and then move the SD card back to the host OS:

    $ sudo poweroff
  9. Mount the SD card's filesystem on the host and copy the bip38-pi-airgap/ subdirectory to the /home/pi/ on the card's filesystem:

    $ cp -r /path/to/this/repo/bip38-pi-airgap /path/to/sdcard/mount/home/pi/
  10. Unmount and eject the SD card after the copy has fully finished:

    $ sudo sync
    $ sudo umount /path/to/sdcard/mount/
    $ sudo eject /dev/mmcblk0
  11. Boot the Raspberry Pi and ensure that the copied directory has the correct user permissions for the pi user:

    $ sudo chown -R pi /home/pi/bip38-pi-airgap
  12. Run to validate the integrity of the copied files and perform the installation of the dependencies:

    $ cd bip38-pi-airgap
    $ ./

Wallet Setup Instructions


$ ./ <bip38-encrypted-key> <passphrase>

will decrypt the key with the passphrase and write a wallet file to /run/user/1000/wallet. This wallet file can be used as a parameter for the electrum cli utility unpacked to /home/pi/bip38-pi-airgap/Electrum-3.0.5/. Giving commands the parameter -w /run/user/1000/wallet will point Electrum at this wallet to use as the source of private keys.

Since this wallet file is held in tmpfs, it is not written to the SD card and will be lost if and when the Raspberry Pi is powered off.

Example Use

Decrypt a key:

$ ./ 6PnPsnoRPCgbihtCbtGZGn2X2Xy1sKSp5CMCxWU4wridU1x331yeafep6n "This is an inadvisable passphrase."
[WalletStorage] wallet path /run/user/1000/wallet
[profiler] load_transactions 0.0000
[profiler] build_reverse_history 0.0000
[profiler] check_history 0.0000
decrypted key in 9.98634834 seconds
[WalletStorage] saved /run/user/1000/wallet
[profiler] write 0.0004
Finished creating wallet at /run/user/1000/wallet

Addresses in wallet:

This wallet can be used with the Electrum cli's '-w' parameter:

        $ ./electrum -w /run/user/1000/wallet

Sign a message with Electrum:

$ Electrum-3.0.5/electrum -w /run/user/1000/wallet signmessage 1P97WpopdbbpNiEfEqfGF8oQX8KTfQVJc1 "This is the message for testing purposes."

Verify the message signature with Electrum:

$ Electrum-3.0.5/electrum verifymessage 1P97WpopdbbpNiEfEqfGF8oQX8KTfQVJc1 IJSbiLQNWjWZS6f8WIjY+8YfkaeEspwg/bWdzcIBMVCYBMqK+plw5B8pik6RFMVggp5O1yAm9lZrkPzic+EDp2U= "This is the message for testing purposes."

Additional Airgapped Pi Tips

  1. HDMI is a complex protocol and represents an attack surface. Using the Raspberry Pi's RCA analog video out is considered more secure. Transcribing encoded data may be difficult with the default font on an analog display. A different font from /usr/shar/consolefonts/ can be set with the setfont command e.g.:

    $ setfont /usr/share/consolefonts/Lat15-Terminus20x10.psf.gz
  2. Avoid USB hubs and direct-connect your USB keyboard to the Pi. A hub could potentially hide keyloggers or other malicious devices.

  3. Obtain an inexpensive USB keyboard that can be taken apart and inspected to help ensure there is no malicious tampering. Depending on your security profile, there are available designs for USB keyboards build out of simple parts and running open source software.

  4. There are known attacks for logging hidden data on SD cards. Depending on your security profile, consider destroying the SD card after the system has been in contact with private keys.

  5. There is a significant amount of closed-source hardware design in the Raspberry Pi. Depending on your security profile, consider destroying the board after it has been in contact with private keys.

  6. The Raspberry Pi's current draw from the power supply could theoretically leak partial information about a BIP38 passphrase or private key if monitored during the decryption process. A basic countermeasure is to use a simple 5 volt supply that can be inspected for malicious tampering. An advanced countermeasure is to add an additional quantity of electrical capacitance across the 5 volt input to help mask variations in current draw.

Note On Collecting/Validating the Software Dependencies

For use in repeating this process in the future to validate the software dependencies yourself:

To fetch the Debian package dependencies for libssl-dev and python-pip, on an internet-connected Raspberry Pi:

$ mkdir debs
$ sudo aptitude clean
$ sudo aptitude install --download-only libssl-dev python3-pip
$ cp /var/cache/apt/archives/*.deb debs

To fetch the pip dependencies for pybip38, on a internet-connected Raspberry Pi:

$ mkdir pips
$ pip3 download -d pips pybip38

You may then compare the downloaded files against the checksums with those in this repository.

$ sha256sum debs/*.deb pips/*.whl
$ md5sum debs/*.deb pips/*.whl


A script-assisted process for setting up an airgapped Raspberry Pi for decrypting BIP38 and using Electrum.







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