How To Protect Your Seed Phrase
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How To Protect Your Seed Phrase

5m
3 months ago

Protect and recover your crypto wallet using a seed phrase. Explore secure methods like paper wallets, metal wallets, hardware wallets and more.

How To Protect Your Seed Phrase

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A cryptocurrency seed phrase, also known as a mnemonic, is a sequence of words that contain all the information needed to access and use an associated cryptocurrency wallet.
Typically consisting of 12 to 24 words, seed phrases are generally automatically generated by wallet software/hardware upon the creation of a wallet. This wallet then manages and secures the seed phrase, and uses the associated private keys to sign transactions.

Your seed can be used to recover your wallet, should you accidentally delete your wallet or lose access to it for any reason. Since this list of words is quite literally the key to your wallet addresses (and the funds they contain), it’s important to take steps to keep it as secure as possible.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to keeping your seed phrase safe. But there are several different options to choose from, at least one of which should suit your personal security needs.

Here, we take a look at four of the most popular methods, looking at how each one works to keep your seed secure.

Paper Wallet

If you’ve ever created a cryptocurrency wallet before, odds are you also made a paper wallet at the same time.

As the name suggests, this is a piece of paper with your seed phrase written or printed onto it. It’s used to provide a simple backup of your seed, allowing you to easily restore your wallet if it is lost or rendered inaccessible.

Typically, this paper wallet is then hidden in a secure location, for retrieval later if needed.

While simple and effective, the paper wallet is one of the least secure ways to store your seed phrase. Since paper is easily damaged, mistaken for trash, or stolen, it is not considered a suitable method for seed storage — particularly for those with a sizable portfolio.

Nonetheless, if you’re first getting to grips with cryptocurrencies and are looking for a temporary solution before moving on to something more robust, paper wallets can provide a suitable stopgap.

As always, you should never store your seed phrase on an internet-connected or potentially unsafe device, being sure to write it directly on your paper wallet before moving it to a secure location.

To help further fortify your paper wallet consider using one or more of the following additional measures:

  • Write the seed phrase manually in invisible ink
  • Encrypt the seed phrase using a cipher (stored in a separate location)
  • Split the seed phrase across multiple locations
  • Store your paper wallet in a bank safety deposit box

Paper wallets are suitable for temporary seed phrase backups, or as secondary/tertiary seed backups if associated funds are small.

Security: 2/5
Simplicity: 5/5
Cost: 5/5

Metal Wallets

If you like the convenience of paper wallets but aren’t comfortable with trusting your financial security to the integrity of a piece of paper, then metal wallets present an attractive alternative.

These are similar to paper wallets in that they provide a physical backup of your seed phrase which you can then hide somewhere secure. The difference is, the seed phrase is etched or engraved onto a more robust medium — some kind of metal.

Unlike paper wallets, metal wallets are generally extremely hardy and can resist most kinds of abuse. They’re fire resistant, impact resistant, and some are stain and corrosion-resistant.

Anybody with an etching pen and a suitably sized sheet of blank metal can easily create a mnemonic. Popular metals include stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum.

But in most cases, if you’re looking to make use of a metal wallet, you’ll be best served by simply buying one of the numerous off-the-shelf solutions available. These range considerably in their form and price, but all serve the same purpose — keeping your seed(s) safe.

Some of the more popular premium solutions include the Ledger Billfodl and CryptoTag Zeus. These can vary in length (e.g. 12, 16, or 24 words) and the number of seeds they can support and price, but generally cost ~$100+.

Some cheaper off-the-shelf solutions can be found for under $50.

Metal wallets are the next step up from paper wallets and are a no-brainer if you have the materials readily available.

Security: 4/5
Simplicity: 4/5
Cost: 3/5

Hardware Wallet

By far the most secure and capable seed phrase storage solution on this list, hardware wallets, also known as cold wallets, allow users to not only secure their seed phrase but also directly manage their cryptocurrencies.

These take the form of air-gapped physical devices designed to isolate your seed phrases from the internet and keep them safe from physical theft. Even if the device itself is stolen, the seed phrase is generally secure, since it is secured by one or more secondary defense measures — such as biometric security or a pin code.

Unlike many desktop, mobile and web wallets, hardware wallets are generally immune to malware and most feature robust physical defense measures — such as robust tamper-evident casing, secure elements and automatic erasure protocols.

When purchasing a hardware wallet, these are some of the factors you’ll need to consider include:

  • Price
  • Supported assets
  • Recovery options
  • Build quality
  • Security measures
  • Usability

Though hardware wallets allow you to store your seed phrase securely, they are generally best used in combination with a metal wallet — since your funds can be rendered inaccessible if you forgot your pin and some hardware wallets do not allow you to retrieve your seed once entered.

Likewise, if your hardware wallet is lost or broken, the metal wallet will allow you to retrieve your funds and/or set up a replacement hardware wallet. Some of the more premium hardware wallets include a metal wallet, but this is not the standard.

If you’ve got a sizable cryptocurrency portfolio then a hardware wallet is a must-have. But beware, many hardware wallets can only store 1 seed at a time.

Security: 5/5
Simplicity: 2/5
Cost: 2/5

Brain Wallet (Memorization)

Brain wallets are another way to store your seed phrase. As you might have guessed, a brain wallet is formed by memorizing your seed phrase.

When memorized correctly and robustly, brain wallets are by far the most secure way to store your seed phrase, since there is no physical trace of the seed and it is immediately available wherever you are.

The benefits of a brain wallet are clear. Unlike the other kinds of seed storage, It cannot be easily stolen, damaged, copied or coerced out of you. But it does come with one major drawback — if you forget your seed, your funds may be gone forever.

Fortunately, it is possible to dramatically improve how well you can retain and recall your seed by using one or more memory techniques. Suitable systems include the Method of Loci, Pegword System or Story Method.

That being said, no matter how confident you are in your memory, we do not recommend using a brain wallet as your sole seed phrase backup. Instead, it is best used as a secondary backup system when your primary system is inaccessible — such as while you’re traveling or in an insecure location.

Brain wallets should be considered a backup of last resort.

Security: 1/5 (potentially 5/5)
Simplicity: 5/5
Cost: 5/5
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