Quick public service announcement - go back up your crypto seed phrases and passwords right this minute. Why is this important? When we are dealing with cryptocurrency, there is no centralized authority that can help us recover our accounts or get our funds back if we lose our passwords. If you drop your phone in the water or loose your laptop computer, your seed phrase is the only lifeline that can help you get your crypto back. I learned this lesson first hand this weekend.
Don't Be Like Me
Where I live, the weather is usually very cold during the winter and we don't get very many nice days. Since it was such a nice day, I decided to ride the motorcycle over to my parents house. It was a completely beautiful ride and I totally enjoyed it, but by the time I started coming home there was a little bit of a sprinkling rain.
I didn't think it would be a big deal, so I just took my cell phone and put it in my jacket pocket thinking that that would be sufficient protection. I didn't notice it at the time, but unfortunately, I was riding right into the middle of a thunderstorm. In less than 10 minutes it went from a light sprinkle of rain to a downpour with gusting winds that knocked tree branches into my path and caused the power to go out on the stop lights. By the time I made it home 45 minutes later, every inch of my clothing was completely drenched and my cellphone was locked on the black screen of death.
Despite my best efforts at disassembling and trying to dry out the phone, it was completely hopeless. I had lost everything that was on the phone including my pictures, crypto wallets, and saved passwords for all of my social media accounts.
Security is YOUR Responsibility
Decentralized social media platforms, Dapps, crypto, and the blockchain in general are different than having a bank account or a traditional social media platform like Facebook. In contrast to legacy social media platforms and traditional banks, the blockchain doesn’t have a “customer support” division that can help you recover your lost accounts. It is your responsibility to safeguard your private keys and recovery phrases. If you lose these, it is simply not possible to recover your account.
Not only do our phones store our pictures and text messages, but they are also our personal assistants. They remind us of upcoming appointments, they autofill our passwords to log into our bank accounts and social media accounts, and many of us use them to store crypto as well. Just for a minute, let's suppose that I lost my phone without backing up any of my accounts.
Obviously, I would lose access to whatever cryptocurrency wallets were on my phone. I will be the first to say that cold-storage, dedicated wallets are generally accepted as the most secure way to store your cryptocurrency, but let's be honest, all of us keep a little bit of crypto and mobile wallets just for the simplicity and ease of use for frequent transactions.
Losing access to your cryptocurrency wallet certainly isn't enjoyable, but at least it is only a one-time loss. Let's suppose that I was a popular Steemian who lost access to my steemit account. This represents an ongoing loss because I have lost all of the years of work that it took me to “build my brand”, gain followers, and build a reputation. Sure, I can restart with a new account, but each new post under my new username will have considerably less reach and, consequently, considerably lower earning potential. In that scenario, the loss of my phone will have lasting impacts for years to come as I struggle to rebuild my lost audience.
The point that I'm really trying to drive home is that although cryptocurrency and the blockchain are considered to be inherently more secure than centralized websites and bank accounts, there is an enormous shift in responsibility. Non-blockchain users can easily restore their accounts by simply calling a customer service department and answering a few questions, but we as crypto users simply don’t have that option. YOU have to be the one to secure and protect your accounts.
Thankfully, I took the appropriate precautions and was able to recover the majority of my accounts because I had taken the time to use backups and write down the seed phrases. After going through this experience, I wanted to share a few tips and observations.
Seed Phase Backups
Obviously, the best way of securing your account is to write down the seed phrase on old-fashioned pen and paper. However, this isn't always possible. As part of my cryptocurrency blogs, I create A LOT of new accounts all the time, and I don't want to have to keep getting a piece of paper in and out of a safe. I have been able to restore some accounts because I used an old phone (in airplane mode) to take pics of my seed phrase. Is this the best way of securing your seed phrase? Absolutely not, but I have used these pictures to restore some of my accounts. This is where each of us has to assess the risks of different options. In my case, an imperfect way of backing up my phrases was still useful.
It's your responsibility to safeguard your accounts, but remember that we're not just securing our accounts against getting hacked. We also have to realize that life happens. We can lose our phone or our computer could get a virus and crash. if I was a hundred percent committed to perfect security, I wouldn't have taken a picture of my seed phrase, which would mean that I wouldn't have been able to restore some of those accounts so its a tradeoff that each of us has to make.
Consider switching from Google Authenticator to Authy. Many sites use Two Factor Authentication to make logging in more secure. If you lose the phone with your authenticator app, those codes are completely gone and you will be unable to log in unless you have some way of recovering your authentication app. When you first associate an account with Google Authenticator, you are given a QR code or keystring that can be used to restore that account (Thanks to beachbummer for the updated info.) While this is a useful feature, it can become cumbersome if you have multiple accounts that all require 2FA because you will have to restore each account separately, and you would have to write down each keystring every time you enable 2FA on a new account.
By contrast, Authy can restore all of your 2FA accounts with one single decryption passphrase. Its your call, but I have found Authy much more convenient for two reasons. As long as you enable backups and write down your decryption phrase, Authy can restore your accounts even if you forget to write down the QR code or keystring for each new site you add. Second, Authy can quickly restore all of your 2FA codes in one simple step and I didn't have to restore every 2FA account individually. Changing to a new 2FA app requires the existing 2FA code, so once you loose your phone, it is too late to switch from Google Authenticator to Authy or to write down your seed phrase.
I know this is mainly a cryptocurrency article, but don't forget about the non crypto content on your electronic devices as well. Cell phones have made it easy to capture all of life's important moments in real time, so our phones are filled with graduation pictures, birthdays, and once in a lifetime moments. This isn’t the first time that I have lost a phone unexpectedly, so I have made it a habit of backing up important photos by either placing them on Facebook or Instagram- in fact, all I really use Facebook and Instagram for anymore is remembering birthdays and using it as a free photo backup. If that’s not your preferred option, you could consider using a USB or transferring pics to your computer as a backup. Google Photos can automatically back up all your pics and videos for free, but there are privacy concerns with that. I’m just giving options, and it is your call whether the privacy risk outweighs the protection for your pics and videos. The options are limitless, but just give it some thought beforehand - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I also like backing up all of my passwords in a password manager (I like KeePass) and keeping the encrypted file on my laptop as well as a USB.
Digital devices are extremely convenient, but they can also be destroyed or lost completely unexpectedly. Once your device is lost or stolen, its too late to go back and write down the seed phrase. This is your friendly reminder to take a few minutes to write down all of your phrases and put them in a secure place. It will just take a few minutes out of your day, and you will certainly thank yourself in the future.
Authy Logo: https://seeklogo.com/vector-logo/272837/authy
Authenticator Logo: https://appslova.com/switch-google-authenticator/google-authenticator-logo/
Cover Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/-RrsXC5aErw