What is a seed phrase?
If you have ever used a non-custodial Bitcoin wallet you would have come across an option to backup a Seed Phrase before storing funds in your wallet.
Every Bitcoin address has a public and a private key similar to a login ID and password on the internet. The seed phrase is just a proxy for your private key, they are chosen from a pool of 2048 word dictionary where each word determines a specific number.
The seed phrase is a more user-friendly version of the private key making it easier to store.
A Bitcoin private key will look like this:
5Kb8kLf9zgWQnogidDA76MzPL6TsZZY36hWXMssSzNydYXYB9KF – which is hard to remember or write down.
You can watch this video by Andreas Antonopolous to better understand how seed phrases work:
Why is it needed?
The 12/24 word seed phrase is your key to the digital vault which stores Bitcoin. When you lose the password to your wallet app or lose your phone containing the app, you can use the seed phrase to recover and get control over your funds.
It is very important to backup your seed phrase as it is the only way to recover the funds if you lose access to the wallet.
7 Commandments for storing the seed phrase securely
- Thou shall never take a screenshot
This point is often ignored by a lot of people but it is crucial to remember, it is very convenient to just take a screenshot of the seed phrase when presented but highly unsafe. For one, you may lose your device and all the images along with it in which case you do not have access to the seed phrase. If it backed up on the cloud, it is accessible to the cloud provider or anyone who can hack into your email ID or get access to your cloud (which is not very common).
2. Thou shall not type it on your computer
Another convenient way is to store your seed phrase is in a word document on your laptop, but it is important to note that your laptop is connected to the internet and prone to malware attacks. Another major risk is it might get deleted from the device in which case you will never be able to access your keys again.
3. Thou shall keep multiple copies in safe spaces
The best way to store your seed phrase is to store it offline. When you store it on a paper it is important to keep multiple copies in different places just in case one of it gets destroyed.
4. Thou shall never store it online without encryption
If you are to store your seed phrase on a device or on the cloud – Encrypt and store. The best way is to use encryption software to encrypt the file storing the seed phrase and also have a backup of it on the cloud.
5. Thou shall try to remember the seed phrases
One of the best ways to safeguard your bitcoin is to store it in the most sophisticated device in the world – your Brain!
It is not very hard to memorize the 12 or 24-word seed phrase, you will not have to worry about any complexities that come with the other ways if you just memorize the words. However, not having any backups might be going too far for most people.
6. Thou shall never enter your seed phrase on a website you haven’t researched
There are a lot of scammers in the Crypto space, they may pose as representatives from wallet companies or may attract you to with airdrops or free money. But make sure not to give away your seed phrases online under any circumstances.
7. Thou shall not print your seed phrase on a public/shared printer
Last but not least, be careful with the printer used to print the seed phrases. Most printers these days are connected to the cloud which is a risk to users who are printing sensitive information like seed phrases. It is also risky to print the seed phrases from a public printer as they might get access to the information.
The best practice is to write down the seed phrase by hand.