Guide to Securing Your Bitcoin Seed Recovery Phrase

Guide To Securing Your Bitcoin Seed Recovery Phrase

Your recovery seed phrase is written down. Now what?

Document the Details

Wallet recovery seed phrases are still finicky things. They are not entirely universal with every wallet. Not only that but the variety of coins a wallet supports can add another layer of complexity.

The most comprehensive way is to document which wallet you used to generate your recovery seed phrase (Trezor, Ledger, Coldcard, etc.), the seed format (BIP39, SLIP39, Electrum, AEZEED), what coins you had, address type, and/or the derivation path. For more information on what these are, visit here:

Store this information somewhere accessible to someone who would inherit your assets if such a situation occurred. (Like a will or an encrypted email to them)

Better yet, teach them how to recover your wallet using your recovery phrase and physically go through the motions with them. We'd recommend doing this exercise at least once a year to help them truly remember.

Hide Your Recovery Phrase In An Inconspicuous Location

This is obvious. You don't want just anybody finding your recovery seed phrase.

It should be easy to remember and access, but mentally difficult to find. (You don't want to bury it 8 ft in the ground. How are you going to get it if you need to restore your wallet immediately?)

You also don't want to hide it in a place where it's likely to be thrown away or forgotten.

We've compiled commonly looked places in the event of theft in another blog post: Where NOT to Hide Your Seed

Only share its location with someone that you'd want to access your funds if you're unable to.

Make sure that person has a physical experience in obtaining it. There’s no better way to remember where something is than seeing it for yourself.

Make Sure It Will Last (A Long Time)

Your recovery phrase is the one thing that can restore and recover your coins if your wallet is destroyed.

So it should be written on something that's not only durable, but be in a location where it won't be damaged (excessive handling, moisture, pests, heat, etc).

Metal seed storage (where your seed is written on metal) is a popular option to prevent physical damage but it's not the only way. Paper can be a perfectly valid option.

We've written an article on long-term preservation of your recovery phrase for more details.

Make Another Copy Of Your Recovery Phrase

Metal seed storage will protect you against fires, tornados, floods, hurricanes, etc. but it will not protect you against other people or yourself.

You don't want to lose the only copy of your recovery phrase by forgetting where you put it or accidentally throwing it away.

Feel free to use either metal or paper. If using paper, consider refreshing it annually by creating another paper copy and burning the old one.

Again place it in a separate location from your other copy.

Memorizing your seed is also a great option. Think of it as a mental backup to your recovery phrase. 

Consider Using a Passphrase 

What's a passphrase?

A passphrase is a feature of BIP39 that adds an additional layer of security on your seed. Think of it as an additional word to your seed phrase that can be (almost) anything. (A-Z, a-z, 0-9, special characters i.e. ASCII characters.)

Your seed phrase by itself is technically a wallet with an empty ("") passphrase. And as such, is a valid wallet. Adding a passphrase creates a different brand new wallet on top of your seed.

To add a passphrase, reference your wallet's instructions on adding a passphrase to your wallet.

Generally, new wallets will default to generating a standard BIP39 recovery seed phrase (without a passphrase). Then you will have to activate the passphrase setting which will create a new zero balance wallet.

You will have to send your funds to the new wallet with the passphrase.

To recover your passphrase wallet, you would enter your seed without the passphrase. Then activate the passphrase setting again and enter in your passphrase.

Remember, there is no such thing as a “wrong” passphrase. Every different passphrase you enter is a entirely new wallet. Be careful when recovering your seed with a passphrase.

Using a passphrase allows you to introduce outside parties such as:

  • Storing a copy of your recovery seed phrase in safety deposit box and keeping your passphrase at home
  • Putting your recovery seed phrase OR your passphrase in your will (Not Both!) and keeping the other at home
  • Sharing your recovery seed phrase's location with someone else and not worrying about them being able to take your funds.

A passphrase can also protect you if someone physically threatens you for your seed.

Again, your recovery seed phrase by itself is a valid wallet with an empty passphrase ("").

Your recovery seed phrase with a passphrase is another different separate and valid wallet.

Thus, you could load your wallet recovery seed phrase (without a passphrase) with a small amount and have a hidden true wallet (with the passphrase) with your real amount.

Then in a theft or threatening scenario, you can give your attackers the recovery seed phrase (without the passphrase) and they could recover the wallet without knowing you have another wallet using a passphrase

What is a good passphrase?

Consider reading following when choosing a passphrase: Is Your Passphrase Strong Enough?

CAUTION: Using a passphrase adds another layer of responsibility and potential mode of failure. Having a passphrase is another key piece of information you have to manage. If you lose or forget your passphrase, you're out of luck.

Rememeber, passphrases are case-sensitive and even a space (“ “) is considered a character.

If you input the “wrong” passphrase, your wallet will not give you an error. It will create another entirely new and empty wallet.

Too much security is just as dangerous as too little security.

Do what you feel is realistic and comfortable for your own unique situation and environment.

Most Importantly, Shut Up

Never speak of it again and keep quiet about your holdings.

According to the Department of Justice, in burglaries between 2003 and 2007, offenders were known to their victims in 65% of violent burglaries.

Don't flaunt it on social media, don't brag to your friends.

To go even further, I would recommend not mentioning any bitcoin or cryptocurrency related topics.

No one should know how much you have.

Very few (if any) should know if you even own any.

Only some (if any) should know if you have any interest in cryptocurrency at all.

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