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Crypto Security How-to's

How to securely destroy your paper seed phrase backup.

You should remove all traces of temporary seed phrase backups.


TL;DR

You should not keep any temporary paper copies of your crypto wallet seed phrase.

The Vault12 Digital Vault is perfect for permanently and safely storing your seed phrase backup.

Disposing of your temporary paper seed phrase is easy, but the details are very important.

You could dispose of it by burning it in your kitchen, and then flushing the ashes.

You could dispose of it by erasing, shredding, and then flushing the pieces.

Remember that your wallet seed phrase allows access to your crypto

By now, you know that your crypto wallet seed phrase is the most important thing to protect in order to guard your crypto assets. You have read about the need to use randomness to generate your seed phrase, and then how important it is to back it up to ensure that it is not lost or stolen. In this article, we will assume that you have already decided on which wallet to use, how to generate your seed phrase, and how to back it up. With your wallet set up and your seed phrase safely and permanently backed up, now you find yourself with a piece of paper that holds a "spare copy" of your seed phrase scrawled on it. How should you dispose of that precious piece of paper?

Why would you have a paper copy of your seed phrase? 

You probably ended up with that piece of paper containing your seed phrase as a result of your seed phrase generation and/or wallet setup steps. Until you are sure that your wallet configuration is complete, and your permanent seed phrase backup is complete, you likely wrote down your seed phrase on paper along the way.

If you generated your seed words incrementally with dice, you likely calculated them one by one, capturing each one on paper after it was chosen.

Similarly, if you let a crypto wallet choose your seed phrase for you, you likely wrote it down in order to confirm the words back to the wallet during the configuration process. In any case, you probably did not transcribe each word directly into permanent storage the instant that it was generated - you wrote it down offline, on paper, in order to have a copy to use to help you complete the steps of saving it to its permanent storage medium. Then you saved your seed phrase to a permanent medium such as your Vault12 Digital Vault, a steel card, or a limited-access, backed-up encrypted file. You might even have chosen to use two of those forms of secure, permanent backup.

Congratulations! But now you also have this extra piece of paper that you don't need - and it would be silly to leave it lying around waiting to be stolen, or to just throw it into your trash can.

Planning to destroy your temporary seed phrase copy

You need a foolproof way to destroy the now-unnecessary, temporary paper copy of your wallet seed phase, such that it can never be reconstructed. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan to destroy it:

  • Don't put the task off. If you do not keep the temporary copy in a high-security safe until it is destroyed, every moment that it remains readable holds some risk that you could misplace it, or that it could be otherwise accessed. Properly disposing of it is not hard to do, and it does not take long - finish the task.
  • Meanwhile, be aware of cameras that could record the seed phase from the paper. Your smartphone, laptop, tablet, or security camera could all capture an image of your seed phrase without your realizing it. We have all become so accustomed to cameras around us all of the time, especially when they are part of our home security system, that we lose our awareness of what is being recorded. Don't take the chance of accidental image capture.
  • If you wrote down the seed phrase on a pad of paper, ensure that the page below the one that you wrote on does not have impressions that could be used to detect and reconstruct the words. Tap into your spy novel knowledge to imagine that possibility! If necessary, destroy the page underneath as well to remove all traces.
  • Be absolutely sure that you did not make any errors in backing up your seed phrase to permanent storage.

Now you are ready.

Illustration of person burning a paper seed phrase

Option #1: Destroy your seed phrase copy with fire and water

For all activities related to fire, you should of course carefully take appropriate safety precautions.

It is possible to burn your seed phrase outdoors, but we recommend doing it indoors, since indoor space is more controllable. (Outdoors, you may be more conspicuous, the paper could blow away partially-burned, or worst of all, you could accidentally start a larger fire.)

Indoors, you have a ready-made seed phrase burning area: your kitchen stove. When you are ready:

  • Just in case, know where your fire extinguisher is located!
  • Survey the area around the stove to ensure that there is nothing flammable.
  • Turn on the ventilation fan near your stove to prevent setting off the smoke detector.
  • Have a lighter handy.
  • Put a metal pan that you will use to contain the burning paper onto the stove.
  • Fold your seed phrase paper in half so that it makes a V-shaped "tent."
  • Place the folded paper into the pan, pointy side up (as an upside-down "V") - this will allow oxygen to circulate underneath it for a complete burn.
  • Carefully light the paper on fire, and wait for the flame to completely consume it.
  • Wait for the paper to cool. Crumble the ashes.
  • Flush the ashes down the toilet to avoid any chance of reassembly.

Option #2: Destroy your seed phrase copy by shredding and flushing

To destroy your paper seed phrase without fire:

  • First, if the words are written with pencil, completely erase them.
  • Shred the paper into extremely small pieces, such that even if any letters could still be read, no more than one letter would be shown on any piece. (This could be done using your hands, scissors, or a shredding machine.)
  • Flush the shredded pieces down the toilet to avoid any chance of their reassembly.

Your Vault12 Digital Vault is secure and convenient for your seed phrase backup

It is a good feeling to know that your seed phrase is safe and secure without having to keep paper copies lying around. Your Vault12 Digital Vault is the perfect place to store your sensitive digital assets including your seed phrase. Congratulations on being an informed, responsible holder of your own crypto assets.

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The Winklevosses came up with an elaborate system to store and secure their private keys. They cut up printouts of their private keys into pieces and then distributed them in envelopes to safe deposit boxes around the country, so if one envelope were stolen the thief would not have the entire key.

Nathaniel Popper, New York Times, December 19, 2017

20% of all Bitcoin is lost forever. That's $20B, in fact, in 2018 alone, $1.1B has been stolen.

Elliott Krause, The Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2018

The idea behind Vault12 is how do we essentially split that responsibility, make that problem of key control less a technological one by essentially making it into a social one with networks of people that they trust.

Terence Spies, former CTO, HP Enterprise, Data Security

Exchanges are the main target for hackers. Those are the biggest honeypots. So the number one rule in Crypto is, do not keep your money on an exchange, and if you're going to custody that money, you need to do it off of the exchange with a product like Vault12.

Joe DiPasquale, BitBull Capital

Security and usability are inextricably linked, the former cannot exist without the latter. Vault12 understands the need for end-to-end management of this experience as well as the importance of integrating into the prevailing crypto ecosystem

Sathvik Krishnamurthy, Founder and Managing Partner, Security Leadership Capital

As we move to a more open financial system driven by advanced blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, we need smarter ways to ensure that the system is trustworthy. Vault12 does this by addressing a foundational need -- ensuring that your crypto assets are not only protected by decentralized security, but also by your trusted inner circle. Your private key never exists in one place or with one entity, reducing risks from hackers as well as everyday accidents.

Vinny Lingham, Entrepreneur and Advisor

Security is the lifeblood of industry, commerce, and leisure. As more people use decentralized applications, they will need a way to back up their crypto wallets and exchange accounts. Vault12 provides a simple and natural way to reduce risks and combat the fear of forgetting seed phrases and private keys.

Jon Callaghan, co-founder of True Ventures

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