Your hardware wallet seed is the 12 or 24 words generated by your device during the initial setup process. The seed words (or “recovery seed”) can be used to restore your hardware wallet in the case where it breaks or is stolen or misplaced. Choosing the best way to store your hardware wallet’s seed / recovery seed is an important step in securing your cryptocurrency. Anyone who has access to your device’s seed words can instantly make a clone of your wallet and control it’s entire contents.
We take a look at some of the methods available to store your recovery seed, from the simple and creative to the durable and damage-proof.
One of the cheapest and more secure ways of storing your wallet words is using a simple paper and pen. The main advantage of paper is that the words are never digitized or typed into a computer so you can avoid dangers such as keyloggers, viruses and malware. Both the Ledger Nano S and Trezor wallets come with a small numbered piece of paper to allow you to write down your device’s seed password as soon as you set it up. If you do write down your seed, ensure the words are numbered correctly as order is extremely important when using a recovery seed and also consider laminating the paper.
Although writing your seed on paper is a very cost-effective and safe solution, it’s important to consider the worse case scenarios. If you experience a house fire or flood, will your seed survive? Is there a chance that your spouse may throw out your seed paper thinking it’s garbage?
PROS: Free. Non-digital method so viruses and keyloggers aren’t an issue.
CONS: Paper can easily be misplaced, destroyed by water, fire or fade over time.
Steganography is a technique used to hide your seed password in plain sight inside of a block of text or image.
There are many free tools online such as Stegoseed which will allow you to input your seed words and it will convert them into a lengthy story which can be saved as a text document on your computer. The tool works by building a story around your BIP39 seed words by using non-BIP39 words as filler text. This allows the tool to work in reverse to decipher the seed words by simply pasting the entire story.
Please note: only use the live demo version as an example. If you plan on storing your seed this way, it’s safer to download the files from the github and run the tool locally from your computer. We only suggest trying this method of seed storage if you have a small amount of cryptocurrency on your device as digital seed storage is not secure.
PROS: Free. Has some level of security above storing your seed words in a raw format digitally.
CONS: Conversion and storage is done digitally. Could easily be deciphered if a hacker knew what they were looking for.
One commonly overlooked method of storing your seed is simply remembering it. Now, some of us don’t have the greatest memory and trying to recall 24 seed words may be a daunting task but here is a tip which may help you out:
Try associating each word with the next into a story that you can visualise and remember. For example, if the first few of your seed words were “GYM ART WALL ZEBRA GUN EAGLE…” your story could be something like “When I go to the GYM I always look at the ART on the WALL of the ZEBRA holding a GUN shooting an EAGLE”. The more strange, weird and visual you make your story the easier it will be to remember.
PROS: Free. High level of security as there is no physical written copy of the seed words.
CONS: Relies heavily on your memory. You may forget your seed words due to general forgetfulness, old age or an unexpected mental disease.
Steel / Titanium
Stainless steel has a melting point of 1,200°C and titanium can survive temperatures up to 1650°C. The fact that the average house fire burns at a temperature of around 590°C makes metal plates an extremely durable material for seed storage. Your seed words can either be engraved onto a metal plate (make sure you do this yourself with no one else around!) or by using letter punches.
The most popular product available without the need for engraving tools is the Cryptosteel. The device comes with hundreds of steel letter tiles which are then inserted into the tile racks (see above image). The side panel is then locked shut and covered to conceal your seed. Floodproof, fireproof and made from 100% steel the build quality of this product is amazing!
PROS: Fairly inexpensive. Durable.
CONS: Can still be misplaced or stolen if not properly stored.
Safety Deposit Box
A second layer of security used in conjunction with the above suggestions would be to store the medium containing your seed password in a safety deposit box. Prices for deposit boxes with Australian banks or similar service providers range from around $100 – $200 per year.
The main advantage of safety deposit boxes is the level of security. Usually they require multiple keys, identification or fingerprint scanners to gain access and are locked away in vaults that are monitored 24 hours/day.
PROS: High level of security, minimal chance of theft. Most safety deposit boxes are fireproof.
CONS: An added cost. Limited access (only during bank hours). Not insured. Bank ultimately is in control of the box’s contents.
The best method of securing your hardware wallets seed will depend on how much cryptocurrency you have stored on your device as well as your budget. By far the most secure method is to either purchase a Cryptosteel or letter punch your seed into a steel or titanium plate. Then depending on how you feel about banks, either storing the Cryptosteel or metal plate (with tamper-proof seals) in a safety deposit or a secret spot in your home.
If you are looking for a more economical option, paper and pen is your best bet and keep it somewhere safe at your home or office.
The above article is not intended as financial advice and readers should perform their own due diligence to ensure the security of their hardware wallet and cryptocurrencies.