How to keep your private keys safe

Safety is important in the world of cryptocurrencies

WRITTEN BY
Jed Alexander
Copywriter and content creator with a focus on emerging technologies. Part-time fitness Junkie. Full-time plant-based binge eater 🌮
2/12/2020
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Safety is important in the world of cryptocurrencies.

What is a bitcoin wallet

As well as being encrypted, Zumo is non-custodial, meaning that we do not have access to your funds.

Once you sign up to Zumo, you are provided with a private key that we never see or have access to — we ensure that you are the only person who can access your wallet.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Keeping your private key safe is essential and the risk of not taking this seriously is not to be underestimated.

In the world of centralised banking (boo!), losing your PIN number means that you just ask your bank for a new one. However, misplacing or losing your Zumo private key can mean that funds are rendered inaccessible forever.

Your Zumo wallet provides you with all of the necessary security features to keep your cryptocurrency safe, but it is down to you to take care of your private key, ensuring that it doesn’t get lost or fall into the wrong hands.

Sound complicated and stressful?

Don’t worry — it doesn’t need to be. In this article we explain private keys and help you to take some simple steps to ensure that your private key is safe and secure and that you — and only you — have access to your funds at all times.

What is a private key?

Imagine that your house has just one ultra-secure door and that you possess the only key to that door. You’d want to take care of that key as if your life depended on it, right?

Your private key plays the same role in the world of cryptocurrency, giving you — and you alone — access to your secure cryptocurrency wallet and your funds.

On other platforms, private keys are made up of a long string of randomly generated numbers and letters. This can be hard to manage and often people will omit or mis-type a digit when copying private keys to store, ultimately resulting in a loss of funds when the time comes to use them.

Don’t worry though, we’ve made this process easy for Zumo users and you don’t need to be Neo from The Matrix to read the complicated string of digits that make up your private key.

In fact, in your Zumo wallet your private key is referred to as your “Backup Phrase” and it consists of 12 words, randomly generated from a list of 2,048. The words in your Backup Phrase are short, easy to read and simple to copy to a piece of paper or a device for storing safely (more on that in a minute).

By doing this, we’ve bypassed the complications of private keys and made it easier than ever for you to keep your funds safe.

Backup your Backup Phrase

btc wallet UK

Simply remembering your Backup Phrase is not enough and we strongly recommend that you “backup your backup”.

Various suggestions have been made through the years of the best way to store your Backup Phrase in order to keep it secure while keeping it easily accessible. One of our firm favourite suggestions (jokingly, of course) to date was to -

“write it in a small notebook and lock it in a safe, which is then stored in a vault in the floor, covered by a rug and guarded by dogs with machine guns and a very small clone of Arnold Schwarzenegger”.

You don’t necessarily have to go that far though. Below we walk you through the do’s and don’ts when it comes to the backup and safe storage of your Backup Phrase.

What you shouldn’t do

You should never store your backup phrase on a device that is connected to the internet. This could mean on your computer, your tablet or your smartphone or even on cloud storage (such as Google Drive). These devices are at risk of hacks and by keeping your Backup Phrase online you could be exposing your information to cyber thieves.

Keeping your Backup Phrase in an email or other shared documents is also discouraged.

Digital copies of Backup Phrases also introduce other risks such as data-loss and electromagnetic damage.

What you should do

Since your Backup Phrase needs to be stored offline, a simple and popular way to do so is simply to write it down on paper, be it a notepad or diary.

This being said, your Backup Phase ideally needs to be written down on something that is not at risk of fire, humidity or water damage. Therefore paper is not a good choice, as it damages easily.

There are several options available that offer a way to inscribe your Backup phrase on materials that are resistant to fire, flood, and even nuclear disasters. You may even want to consider enscribing your Backup Phrase on a sheet of steel yourself if you are able to do so.

It is recommended that you make at least a few copies of your Backup Phrase, in case you lose the device or physical object that your original Backup Phrase is stored on.

Finally, where you ultimately store your Backup Phrase also matters a lot. If you are storing large amounts of funds in your Zumo wallet, you may want to consider storing your Backup Phrase in an ultra secure location such as a physical vault.

To summarise

Backup Phrases are incredibly secure. So much so that by having an entirely randomised set of words, it would be near impossible to break your backup phrase’s code. Even if you owned (and knew how to use might we add) the world’s most advanced supercomputer, it would take many, many years to do. Now that’s some good security right there.

Backup Phrases enable Zumo users to take control of their money but it’s vital to take responsibility for that control, for your own sake.

We all deserve to truly own our funds and transferring control away from centralised financial institutions such as banks is a mission that is at the beating heart of Zumo and of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.

If you have any further questions about your Backup Phrase, please email support@zumo.money, we’re here to help.

By keeping your Backup Phrase secure, you are taking a big step forward into a world where you alone control your funds — and a giant leap into the future of smart money.

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