Protecting Your Seed Phrase

Education about protecting your cryptocurrency wallet's seed phrase.

What is a seed phrase?

A seed phrase (sometimes also referred to as a pass phrase or a key phrase) is a collection of random words that were generated when you registered the wallet. It could be between 12 and 24 words long, sometimes more - depending on the wallet provider.
Simply put, your seed phrase is your wallet's master key. It allows you to access your wallet and its contents from any device, for example when your device dies and you need to acquire a new one and transfer your wallet onto it.
This seed phrase needs to be kept secret from everyone who is not you, treat it as you would your bank card PIN number. Your seed phrase should be kept somewhere safe and secure in case you will need it in the future.

Keeping Your Seed Phrase Safe

Here are some tips for keeping your seed phrase safe from shady eyes.

Creatively Backing Up Your Seed Phrase

  • When writing down your seed phrase for safekeeping, it is usually a good idea to hide the seed phrase within a custom poem, song, or riddle.
  • This way, if someone happens to stumble across your seed phrase, it will just look like a pretty (or sometimes weird) bit of creative writing, and they shouldn't catch on that it's a hidden seed phrase.
For example, let's say your first four seed phrase words are Purple, Lion, Bed, Floor.
Purple rain falls all around the plains, The lion goes to check on the drains, But his bed retains the water, And the wood floor has stained.
Notice the first word of the poem is your first seed phrase word. The second word of the poem is your second seed phrase word. And so on.
This is just an example, there are many ways that seed phrases can be hidden within creative writing.

Digital Backups

  • If you really feel that you must back up your seed phrase digitally, then make sure that the seed phrase is encrypted. Or even better, hidden creatively (see above) and then encrypted.
  • Do not store your seed phrase as a standard electronic note or document, and especially do not store them online. This includes Notepad, Microsoft Word, Google Docs, note-taking software, emails, and so on.
  • Make sure any digitally backed-up seed phrases are protected by passwords and other security measures that may be available to you. This might include 2-factor authentication, PIN codes, and biometric fingerprint scanners.
Beware that there have been claims posted on the internet that facial recognition and retinal scanner biometric security has been fooled before by using a high-definition photograph of a person's face or eye close-up, which can easily be taken from social media.

Physical Backups

  • Should you decide to back up your seed phrase physically (hopefully creatively hidden in a poem, etc), then you should make sure that the physical back-up is kept in a secure place away from your computer - preferably not even in the same room as your computer.
  • It would be a good idea to seal your seed phrase in a plastic container or ziplock bag to protect it from water damage. For example, should there be a flood or burst pipe incident.
  • Writing the seed phrase in invisible ink may be a good idea as well.

Using a Safe

  • Safes are a good place to store a physical backup, as long as your safe is not highly visible. Bear in mind that during a home burglary, a safe is one of the first things a thief will keep an eye open for.
  • Make sure the safe is well hidden. There are many specialist hidden safes available on the market, such as safes that can be embedded into the floor, safes that look like an innocent power plug socket, and so on.
  • Alternatively to a hidden safe, make sure your safe is embedded into the building itself, such as inside a wall, so that it cannot be removed from the property by a thief to be cracked open later with power tools.
  • Your safe should ideally be fireproof. Beware of safes on the market claiming to be "fireproof" but have holes in the back or bottom of the safe for bolting onto something - obviously fire can get through holes.
  • It would be a good idea to seal your seed phrase in a plastic container or ziplock bag to protect it from water damage. For example, should there be a flood or burst pipe incident.
If your safe has a keypad where you'll need to enter a code to access it, then don't forget to wipe away your fingerprints after using your safe. This is to prevent the combination of a fine powder being dusted onto the keypad to see which numbers you've been pressing, followed by attempts at guessing the code using those numbers.
Safes with a "kill switch" which disables power to the keypad or blocks the unlocking mechanism after too many failed attempts may help to prevent this (except if the thief is very lucky at guessing), but then you'll have the hassle of finding, hiring, and proving that you're the owner of the safe to a trusted locksmith to open it for you.

Bank Safe Deposit Boxes

  • Those who have a large amount of cryptocurrency or a lot of high-value NFTs might want to consider something even stronger than having a safe on their property. That being a safe deposit box within a bank vault.
  • The bank will charge you to rent space for your safe deposit box in their vault, which is why it's usually a better solution for those with large amounts of crypto, as opposed to a "smaller" trader, unless you already have a safe deposit box for another purpose.
  • You could consider hiding your seed phrase creatively, as advised above, then store it in a safe deposit box at your bank branch. This way, even in the very unlikely one-in-a-billion-chance that the bank vault does end up being successfully robbed and they coincidentally go for your safe deposit box out of the hundreds or thousands of others in the vault, it will just look like a random piece of paper with a rambling poem on it to the thieves.

Bonus Tip: SmartWater

SmartWater Group is a pioneering British security company that offers security solutions to people, companies and law enforcement across the globe. One of their products, which as since been adopted by regular and specialist police forces across the world - including but not limited to Scotland Yard, NCA, FBI, and the Gendarme - is "SmartWater".
SmartWater is a forensically traceable liquid data system that is applied to items of value to trace, identity, and convict thieves who come into contact with the liquid that was applied to your valued items.
Visit SmartWater's online store to see the products they offer. Or visit their website to learn more about them.
The Sandbox is not partnered with SmartWater, nor has any agreement or rewards scheme with SmartWater to mention their products in our knowledge base. Their information is shared here purely for your security education and consideration.