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December 13, 2019

X Marks the Spot: 10 Places to Hide Your Hardware Wallet

X Marks the Spot: 10 Places to Hide Your Hardware Wallet
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Getting a hardware wallet is a great way to protect your crypto, but that's only half the job—you have to keep it safe, too. Here are 10 places to hide it.

As a sensible human being and responsible hodler, you've done your research and decided to safeguard your cryptocurrency holdings with a hardware wallet.

Now, the question is: how do you keep your hardware wallet safe?

There's a myriad of wonderful places and ways to hide a wallet, but they lose their power if you don't take care of the basics of physical security first, so let's get to it.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Hardware wallets are great at storing crypto. However, many of them are also great at looking like hardware wallets and could attract unwanted attention if left out in the open.

Quite simply, the easiest way to keep your crypto HODLings safe is for nobody to even know you have any crypto in the first place.

While not telling the world about your crypto reserve is a great first security step, it doesn't eliminate the risk of someone stumbling upon your hardware wallet by accident and connecting the dots.

For the ultimate in safety and peace of mind, you'll need to hide your hardware wallet away from any prying eyes.

More Than Just the Hardware

Something important to keep in mind when considering where to hide your hardware wallet is that the device itself doesn't actually store your crypto like a physical wallet stores your cash.

Rather, it provides a convenient interface for you to access and interact with the blockchain address(es) where your crypto is stored, whilst keeping your private keys safe and away from digital dangers.

Think of it as: (wallet device)+(seed phrase)=hardware wallet

So, while half of hiding your hardware wallet is hiding the device itself, the other half is hiding your private keys—and making sure you don't hide these two things in the same place.

Here's a handy list of best practices for private key safekeeping:

Do ✅

  • Write your seed words down old school style. Pen and paper are your friends here.
  • Double check that you wrote all the words correctly, in the right order. Then check again.
  • Write down multiple copies of your private key/seed words for safety through redundancy.
  • Protect from possible water damage by laminating or storing in waterproof bags.
  • Store copies in different physical locations in case of natural disaster or property damage.
  • Protect from possible fire damage by backing up on metal, like Cryptosteel or Billfodl (a more costly but reassuring option).

Don't 🚫

  • Write them down on any electronic device.
  • Store them digitally.
  • Write them down anywhere with cameras around.
  • Read them aloud when writing them down.
  • Hide them in the same place as your hardware device.

This might seem like a bit much or slightly paranoid, but losing your private key is more dangerous than losing or breaking your device and has made cautionary tales of many a poor soul.

Now, with these basic safety precautions taken care of, it's time to get to our list of creative, achievable wallet hiding mechanisms.

The 10 Best Places to Hide Your Hardware Wallet

"Technical complexity is part of the risk model… If your security is more technically complex than your level of skill, then you introduce a very serious risk that you will lose your crypto. Not because it is stolen, but because your ambition for technical excellence exceeded your skill level for technical execution and you frankly messed it up."

Andreas M. Antonopoulos

As noted by Bitcoin and blockchain expert Andreas M. Antonopoulos, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in protecting your crypto is in over-complicating.

So before you begin researching military-grade safes, glacier protocols, and Faraday cages, consider these simple, straightforward, and cost-effective options.

Bathtub

No, not inside the tub itself, but inside the panels that surround many bathtubs. Obviously, a proper waterproof container is imperative here (although ideally, you don't have a leaky tub). If you're more of a shower person and don't have a tub, then the base of a toilet brush holder could prove a viable bathroom-based alternative that not many people are going to want to take a closer look at.

Birdhouse

If you've got access to a garden or a balcony, then a birdhouse won't look out of place around your property. You could seal off the entrance to one and use it as a hiding place for your wallets—just make some provisions to keep it warm in case your environment regularly hits sub-zero temperatures.

Books

This is one of the more classic suggestions, but you just can't beat the Cold (Storage) War intrigue of a hollowed-out book as super-secret storage. You can get them online, or treat is as a DIY project, utilizing the numerous guides available on Youtube. Just make sure you don't accidentally eviscerate your signed first edition of the Codex Leicester.

Bookmarks

The old school kind, not the browser kind. This is a great option for hiding your private keys, but whatever you do, don't store them with the device if you go the hollowed-out book option! This could also make for a fun DIY project, constructing a decorative sheath to conceal the secret of the seed words.

If you have a particularly extensive library, hide the bookmark in a title that has personal significance to you—his will help you remember which of your books to go for when you need the keys.

Carpet

Another good option for your private keys could be beneath a carpet or rug. Trying to hide your hardware wallet device there could present a slight stumbling hazard, but a sheet of card (preferably laminated to prevent scuffing or tearing) could comfortably be taped underneath, without changing the look of your rug at all. For extra security and slippage-prevention, tape the edges to the base of the carpet.

Geocaching

A good way to stop any potential thieves from stumbling upon your device is by not keeping in your home at all—or anywhere generally connected to your day-to-day life. By geocaching it in a specific location, you'll know exactly where it is, while keeping it away from nefarious influences.

NB: This is only advisable for hiding the device—if anyone randomly stumbles upon your wallet out in the wild, they can't access anything, but they can if they find your private key and import it into another wallet.

Geocache hiding place

Lamps

Lamps provide enough of an "in plain sight" presence that they fall outside immediate suspicion for storage secrecy. However, they can readily stash something the size of a hardware wallet, whether you buy them purpose-built or do a conversion job on an existing one. If you do choose to store it within a lamp, wrap it up nice and tightly in something soft to reduce any interior rattling should the lamp ever be moved.

Rice

Everybody knows rice is the way to revive a busted mobile, so why not use the global staple to keep a hardware wallet safe as well? Just bury it deep inside a bag or a jar (and make sure to seal off any openings like USB ports with some sticky tape).

NB: This works best if you have your own personal food pantry—you don't want your roommates or unsuspecting family members cooking up Risotto a la Trezor.

Shoes

Both the sole and tongue of a shoe can provide a viable, unexpected storage space for all but the biggest hardware wallets out there. There are numerous such shoes or storage insoles available for purchase, or  you can go down the YouTube rabbit hole and try to modify a pair you own accordingly.

NB: Avoid shoes you regularly travel in, in case you absent-mindedly wear them to the airport and set off a metal detector.

Sunscreen

As Baz Luhrmann reminded us, everybody's free to wear sunscreen. A sunscreen bottle provides viable storage that's unlikely to arouse much suspicion in your home. Cleaning out an old bottle is the cheapest, most straightforward option (as long as the bottle is opaque), but if you don't fancy scooping out any remnants of SPF, you can buy a variety of bottle safes for reasonable prices online—or make your own.

Special Bonus Hiding Place

If you're willing to undertake a few steps on the tech side of things, an additional hiding place for your hardware wallet is within the wallet itself. This is known as Plausible Deniability, supported by major hardware wallet manufacturers like Ledger, Trezor, and BitBox.

Adding an extra word or passphrase of your choice to your seed phrase generates a new address where you can keep the majority of your holdings, whilst leaving a fraction on the visible device from the general seed words, should any unscrupulous types know that you've got a crypto stash.

XKCD cryptocurrency security hardware wallet
the infamous $5 wrench attack

Caution Is the Best Protection

When it comes to protecting your crypto, it pays to be cautious.

That means minimizing outside awareness of it—don't talk about it, flaunt it, or display it—and exercising basic security by safeguarding your seed words for backup, as well as hiding the physical device itself.

Ultimately, wherever you decide to hide your hardware wallet, make sure you remember where it is.

X Marks the Spot: 10 Places to Hide Your Hardware Wallet
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