Beeple's collection of NFTs sold for record price at Christie's auction
Basics of Crypto Security

How to Secure, Back Up, and Protect NFTs

Today, NFTs are enabling creators to revolutionize art, but they also enable additional use cases, including support for many types of unique physical and digital goods, such as concert tickets and identity documents.


An NFT or "niftie" is a token that is associated with a specific physical or digital asset that has a unique form and value. In contrast, cryptocurrencies such as BTC, ETH or other altcoins are interchangeable with others of the same type (1 BTC = any other BTC).

NFTs can be linked to physical assets, e.g., a diamond, a piece of physical, or a digital asset like an online concert ticket or digital art.

NFTs can be tracked on the Blockchain as they are transferred or sold to other people. In addition, NFTs can be programmed so that when they are sold on the secondary market, a portion of the proceeds can automatically be sent to the creator, thus creating a new motivational value chain for the creator economy.

NFT functionality is still in its infancy, but has the potential to change how assets are traded.

You should protect the NFTs you own by securely backing up the wallet that is holding the keys to your NFTs. It is especially important for creators, who might be associated with myriads of NFTs they authored, and thus all proof of ownership revolves around protecting creator's keys.

What is an NFT?

NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, also known as "nifties", are digital assets tracked on a blockchain like any other token. The term "non-fungible" means that each token is unique. In practical terms, an NFT and its trading history can be tracked on the blockchain, and unlike Bitcoin - where each BTC is valued the same as any other BTC - NFTs can have different values depending on their attributes and on their unique market demand.

NFTs come in all shapes and sizes, but they have two key linked properties:

  1. They are linked to actual assets - physical or digital. Effectively, NFTs express the immutable right of possession, and this right is cryptographically fixed in a blockchain as an advanced digital version of a 'certificate of ownership'.
  2. Tracked on the blockchain so that ownership history is always verifiable. This means that not only digital items can be tracked, but physical items also can also be tokenized and represented as an NFT.
This opens a wide range of use cases for NFTs. Beyond the hype:

Art - both digital and physical art can be tokenized, traded, and tracked via the Blockchain. In March 2021, a JPG image produced by digital artist "Beeple" fetched $69 million in an auction run by Christie's. Other high-profile artists, musicians, and creators are creating new art, as well as tokenizing their historical catalogs.

Plane Tickets - in fact, tickets of all kinds can be issued, tracked, transferred, or even bought and sold, possibly with a percentage of the ticket price going back to the original issuers.

Baseball cards and other collectibles, including limited edition items, can be registered, traded and collected.

Real-world physical assets like diamonds or real estate can also be tokenized, and then traded. As long as there is clear provenance (a known source, or history of ownership) for the physical items, once registered as an NFT, they can easily be traded on a global market.

Looking towards the future of NFTs, there are incredible possibilities for how Smart Contracts will increase the utility of NFTs even more by supplementing them with real-world, dynamic data. Consider the possibilities for NFTs beyond serving as a record of the chain of custody and ownership: GPS location data can indicate the physical location of an NFT-tokenized object; real-time or virtual sports team game outcomes can offer additional token "rewards" to NFT owners; economic data could be used to automatically modify interest rates used for NFT-tokenized mortgage agreements. A dynamic NFT becomes a trackable asset that can be used to participate in various contractual relationships besides just collectible trading.

How are NFTs different from Cryptocurrency?

Most NFTs live on the Ethereum blockchain, although some other blockchains offer NFT support. Unlike cryptocurrency coins like Ether, which are interchangeable with other coins of the same type (fungible), NFTs are unique - like snowflakes - so what is being tracked on the blockchain for any given NFT captures its unique properties, as well as its trading history.

How do I create an NFT?

To create an NFT, first, choose a blockchain network - Ethereum has the widest range of NFTs today, but other blockchains that support NFTs include Finance Smart Chain, Flow by Dapper Labs, Tron, Polkadot, Tezos, Cosmos, and WAX, to name a few. Your choice of NFT blockchain network will determine which exchanges and which crypto wallets can interoperate with your NFT.

If you choose to use Ethereum for your NFT, you will need a crypto wallet that supports the ERC-721 standard, such as MetaMask, Trust Wallet, Coinbase Wallet, or Rainbow. In addition, you will need some funds in Ether (ETH). All Ethereum transactions will cost a transaction processing or "gas" fee.

The platforms that enable you to create NFTs include OpenSea, Rarible, and Mintable. To use these NFT platforms, connect your crypto wallet to the platform, click the "Create" button, and upload your digital art, or other NFT formats add contract terms and details, once your NFT is signed with your wallet, your NFT is ready to go and can be listed. 

How do I buy an NFT?

There are lots of sources to buy NFTs, and more are coming online every day. The most popular platforms include:

Livestream of the first-ever authenticated Banksy art burning.

How do I secure, protect and backup my NFTs?

NFTs are registered on the blockchain and linked to your wallet address, so backing up your claim to a purchased NFT includes the same process as backing up a wallet's seed phrase.

If you own the actual digital art source file itself (regardless of its format), you can also back this up in a Digital Vault, ensuring that your copy of the art is also protected from accidental deletion or loss. Especially important for NFT art that may pass through many hands e.g. auction houses, and also for insurance purposes.

Read on for step by step instructions:

Backing Up from an NFT Platform

Once a creator or developer has created an asset it needs to be "minted" on an NFT platform, this is the process of registering it on the blockchain and activating the smart contract that governs the NFT e.g. what percentage of future sales are credited back to the creator. Once minted it can be made available for purchase. Buyers will purchase directly from the NFT platform using their crypto wallet.

NFT Platforms support wallets in different ways, some wallets can display NFT records, others cannot - it's still early days - in this example, we will use a leading NFT platform, and the Metamask mobile wallet.

Screenshot of NFT minted inside OpenSea

Metamask wallet

Metamask mobile wallet

With NFTs (as with cryptocurrency) it is in fact the wallet seed phrase that becomes the most important item to back up and secure. If you are not familiar with the concept of the seed phrase, it is essential to pay some attention and understand it for successful and safe management of your NFTs.

Step 1: Reveal the seed phrase in the wallet so that it can be backed up.

Metamask wallet

1. Settings

Metamask wallet settings

2. Security & Privacy

Metamask wallet security settings

3. Reveal seed phrase

Meta msk wallet seed phrase

4. Seed phrase displayed

Backing up your Crypto Wallet

Once you have access to the seed phrase you can back it up in many different ways - see our articles on MetaMask as well as seed phrase back up to learn more about the options available to you.

1. Back up to Digital Vault.
2. Crypto Steel.
3. Encrypted local drive or USB.
4. Cloud storage.
5. Brain Wallet.
6. Paper.
Note: backing up a seed phrase to paper is not recommended - read "Paper" article to understand why other options will be more secure and more robust.

The following steps for owners of NFTs, as well as creators, utilize a Digital Vault as the mechanism to store seed phrases as well as the original asset.

Owners: Using a Digital Vault to back up NFTs

A Digital Vault has the advantage of being focused on a singular purpose - that of securely storing digital assets for long term use. While there are many types of digital vaults available for cryptocurrency storage, for NFTs it is better to use something that is independent of any one blockchain and can store any type of digital asset.

Here we will use Vault12 to demonstrate how an NFT can be backed up and how digital assets can also be stored in a Vault.

Step 1: Create and configure a Digital Vault

Step 2: Add your NFT Wallet Seed phrase - this can be done in multiple ways - (a) Enter a Note in the format of a seed phrase or (b) you can enter a Note in free format text - see steps below:

Open your Vault and click on "Add an Asset".

Vault12 app

1. Note

Vault12 - add seed phrase

2. Create Note

Vault12 app

3. Type in seed phrase from wallet and name this asset

Vault12 asset added

4. Asset is locked

Unlocking NFT assets from a Digital Vault

When you need to access the seed phrase associated with your NFT wallet, select the asset in your Vault and press unlock.

Vault12 app

1. Unlock Asset

Vault12 app

2. Confirm unlock request

Vault12 app

3. Once your Guardians have confirmed your unlock request, the asset will be unlocked

Vault12 app

4. Asset now available

Vault12 app

5. View asset - seed phrase of NFT wallet

Creators: Using a Digital Vault to back up NFTs and original artwork

Keeping secure the seed phrase(s) associated with NFTs is especially important for creators, for whom it might be associated with myriads of NFTs they authored, and thus all further proceedings in future is strictly realized via the proof of ownership of the author's keys.

For creators, in addition to backing up wallets that contain their NFT collections, there is also the option to back up the original artwork itself - this could be an image, video or some other file format.

To add artwork to your Vault, simply take the "Add Asset" option in your Vault.

Vault12 app

1. Add asset via the File option

Vault12 app

2. Select file from your directory

Vault12 app

3. Name the asset

Vault12 app

4. There asset will be encrypted and distributed to your Guardians for protection

Unlock and access Creator assets

To gain access to your asset or artwork, select the asset in your Vault and take the unlock option.

Vault12 app

1. Select an asset and press Unlock

Vault12 app

2. Once Guardians have confirmed your request - the asset will be unlocked

Vault12 app

3. Display the asset

The NFT market is new and evolving, there have already been hacking attempts on two platforms where owners and creators had their accounts drained. Please make sure that you are using well-known and trusted wallets to associate with your collection of NFTs. Follow the guidelines laid out to make sure you are able to robustly secure and back up your NFTs - whether you bought them or if you created them.

Wasim Ahmad

Wasim is a serial entrepreneur with five exits, and an advisor in the fields of AI, blockchain, cryptocurrency, and encryption solutions. At Vault12, he led the private and public fundraising efforts, and focuses today on expanding the Vault12 ecosystem. His crypto experience began with AlphaPoint, where he worked with the founding team to launch the world's first crypto trading exchanges.

Previously he was a founding member of Voltage Security, a spinout from Stanford University, that launched Identity-Based Encryption (IBE), a breakthrough in Public Key Cryptography, and pioneered the use of sophisticated data encryption to protect sensitive data across the world's payment systems. Wasim serves on the board of non-profit, StartOut, and is a Seedcamp and WeWork Labs global mentor.

Wasim graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and French from the University of Sussex.


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