Should you memorize a seed phrase?
By keeping your seed phrase secure, you prevent bad actors from cracking the code protecting your bitcoin and ethereum. Securing a seed phrase, however, is complicated and has no one-size-fits-all solution.
To hedge against security threats, some investors choose to forgo any backup whatsoever and instead commit their seed phrase entirely to memory, a scheme sometimes known as a brain wallet. Below is a quick look at the intention behind seed phrases and why memorizing them is not necessarily a smart idea.
What’s in a seed?
Seed phrases, usually represented in a list of up to 24 words, help you stay resilient in the face of security threats. For instance, if a hardware wallet is missing or compromised, you can use your seed phrase to restore access to your crypto on a new hardware wallet. This portability is a must-have, so today’s major wallet manufacturers typically provide instructions on how to document your seed phrase and restore a wallet with it.
Seed storage: Harder than it looks
For all their usefulness, seed phrases have their drawbacks. Anyone who obtains access to your seed phrase, even for a split-second, can use that information to steal your assets. If the phrase is written down on a small slip of paper, a hacker can take a quick photo with their phone, leave the paper where it is, and you would never know until your funds are gone.
To make matters more complicated, various entities often recommend that investors store their seed phrases offline in no less than three places. While backup redundancy is a good security practice, it comes with substantial risk since it’s hard to guarantee complete security across multiple locations at once. The nature of a seed phrase makes keeping it safe a highly nuanced dilemma.
Mind over matter?
Sometimes, investors take the drastic step of memorizing their seed phrase and destroying all backups. The idea is that if no copies exist, a seed phrase is free from security threats. Proponents of this approach like that it maximizes control and flexibility.
So long as you remember your seed phrase, you can theoretically continue to hold your assets and travel across borders to a friendly regime, whereas a paper copy could be seized. However, this common example should not be a go-to security option, and there are far better failsafes in stable regimes you can implement first, such as a multisig wallet.
Memory: All or nothing
While memorization is a powerful security tool, it introduces a single point of failure: you. Once you’ve committed your seed phrase totally to memory, your security is highly centralized.
For starters, you’re completely reliant on your ability to recall your seed phrase in the eleventh hour. This is by no means a certainty. Humans struggle to consistently remember more than a few digits, even just a PIN, and this ability can become less reliable over time. Over time, humans are also susceptible to memory loss due to both chronic health conditions or sudden events, such as a stroke or injury.
While a little forgetfulness can be harmless in everyday activities, it presents a major risk to your seed phrase, which must be remembered in exact order. A missing or word or two can render the rest of your seed phrase incomplete. This isn’t the same as a password that can be reset upon request. If you attempt to memorize a seed phrase and accidentally forget it, your assets could be gone forever.
Watch out for yourself
Storing your seed phrase in your head creates an even bigger security problem — you become the target. If attackers know you have valuable information, obtaining it from you is just a matter of leverage. Memorization is not effective against wrench attacks, ransom schemes, and other psychological tactics.
Personal attacks are why it’s a good idea to avoid assuming all security risks on your own, since distributed security buys you time to seek help and thwart your attackers.
There’s a better way
Crypto security is about both protection and access. Casa puts you in control while distributing much of the risk associated with holding your seed phrase. Our multisig security plans allow you to go completely seedless if you choose.
Rather than consolidating your wealth in one brain wallet, Casa vaults protect bitcoin behind multiple private keys. Each key is stored in a different location and can be easily replaced with a set rotation in the event of compromised security. Casa’s model is far more secure than seed memorization and helps you adapt to changing security threats.
Secure bitcoin and ethereum with peace of mind
With Casa, you can safeguard your assets from single points of failure, such as a compromised seed phrase.Learn more about our plans here.