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After the Punch: Guide to Securing Your Bitcoin Wallet Backup


Your seed is now on metal. Now what?

Document the Details

Wallet recovery seeds/backups 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 simplest way is to document which wallet you used to generate your seed backup (Trezor, Ledger, Coldcard, etc.), the seed format (BIP39, SLIP39, Electrum, AEZEED), what coins you had, and/or the derivation path. See your wallet’s documentation to determine the seed format and derivation path.

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 and physically go through the motions with them. I'd recommend doing this exercise at least once a year to help them truly remember.

Hide Your Seed Backup In An Inconspicuous Location

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

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)

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 Another Copy Of Your Seed

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 backup 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 backup. 

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 seed phrase (without a passphrase). Then you will have to activate the passphrase setting which will create a new wallet.

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 seed in safety deposit box and keeping your passphrase at home
  • Putting your seed OR your passphrase in your will (Not Both!) and keeping the other at home
  • Sharing your seed'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 seed phrase by itself is a valid wallet with an empty passphrase ("").

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

Thus, you could load your wallet seed (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 seed (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.