One of the most interesting proposals to facilitate the handling of our cryptocurrencies and purse is the creation of the seed phrase. And it is thanks to this it is very easy to back up the information in our wallet and thus protect our money at all times.

La phrase seed or seed phrase, makes mention of a set of between 12 to 24 words, which are intended to offer us an easy and simple way to support our cryptocurrency wallet. In this way, if for any reason we lose control over it, we could recover it just by using these words in the order that we were originally given.

That is, in case of breakdowns, thefts or losses of the smartphone or the computer, we can use the seed phrase and retrieve our wallet from another device. All this while we access the addresses associated with our wallet and with it, the funds available in it. Thus, the phrases seeds are kind of coding of private keys of our wallet, but in a much more friendly and manageable way.

Generally we can see this phrase when we first configure a wallet in which we manage private keys and that follows the standard defined by the Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) BIP-39. These words are commonly displayed by the wallet in English, although some wallets deliver words in other languages, making the task easier. On the other hand, these words do not seem to have any special relationship to each other or a meaning, but the truth is that, cryptographically, and having a specific order, it does. So let's learn more about this practical property and learn how it works.

SAFETY NOTE

It is necessary to clarify that the seed allows the recovery of the purses and the funds in case of damage or loss of the device, or the forgetting of the access codes that were configured for said purse. But if a user is a victim of theft of the seed, possibly they will lose all the cryptocurrencies associated with that seed, being unable to recover anything. Whoever has the seed has the power to control the funds, and with them move them to another direction.

How does the seed phrase or seed phrase work?

The seed phrase (seed phrase in English) has a fairly simple operation that we can divide into a series of phases or moment. Thus, the mechanism would function as follows:

First, the wallet developer implements the seed phrase functionality following the BIP-39 standard or some derivative of it. BIP-39, is focused on offering us a method of generating private keys using a series of mnemonic words that help support our wallet and at the same time ensure the construction of secure private and public keys.

The BIP-39 takes words at random (generally from the English language, although they can be from another language) and create a long sentence with them (generally between 12 to 24 words). Here the greater the number of words, the greater the entropy and security attributable to the resulting sentence.

Relationship table between entropy and mnemonic phrases of the BIP-39

Of course, these words are chosen from long dictionaries, with good entropy (randomness), so that the best possible security is guaranteed.

Once the wallet algorithms have created this series of words according to the user's selection or internal configuration, the user is asked to save them in the same order in which they were given. This point is important, because otherwise, the purse cannot be rebuilt in case we need it. In addition, the purse will then ask us to enter these words in the same order. This in order to verify them.

At this point the generation stage of the private key of our wallet is activated. This process is possible thanks to the use of a cryptographic function named PBKDF2. This function is a cryptographic standard for the derivation of secure keys to brute force attacks. An important point, bearing in mind that being “human” words, it is feasible that an attack of this type can obtain the phrase and with it our private key.

This PBKDF2 function is fed by the entire seed phrase or complete seed phrase of the wallet. That will be our source of entropy or "disorder" in the key derivation process.

Demonstration of how PBKDF2 works

Additionally, a number of 2048 iterations is established in the generation process. With each iteration, PBKDF2 generates a different key, and the process ends with performing the 2048 scheduled iterations. Along with this function the function is also used HMAC-SHA512 like the pseudorandom function. All this results in a key with a length of 512 bits or 64 bytes.

This final key is known as a binary phrase or binary seed. And it is the one that will finally be used to generate private keys, or even HD purse (deterministic using BIP-0032). In short, our seed or binary seed is the one that will ultimately allow us to generate our private key, hence the public key and hence the address.

BIP-00032 is a standard. That is, if we use the same words in different wallets that support BIP-0032, and are from the same cryptocurrency, we will always get the same binary seed, and from there we can derive the private key and the rest of the public keys that belong to us.

How much do you know, cryptonuta?

Do seed phrases make cryptocurrency monkers more insecure?

FALSE!

There is a myth that seed phrases make cryptocurrency wallets insecure by intentionally weakening the process of generating the private key, by introducing a series of well-known words that may or may not be truly random. This is completely false and the best proof is that so far this process has not been violated in any way.

Implementation of the seed phrase or seed phrase in the wallets

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant improvements in cryptocurrencies was the implementation of seed phrase, since these are much easier to manage and memorize than private keys. For example, in HD wallets the seed phrases are usually implemented, generating one when creating the wallet. This with the aim of making the recovery of the wallet quick and easy.

Tips to protect the seed phrase

  1. Firstly, when configuring the wallet, you must make an accurate copy of the seed phrase. No typos and in the specific order in which it is displayed.
  2. Then it is recommended make multiple backups of this phrase and store them in different and safe places. This will guarantee that in any case or in any situation, the wallets and funds will be accessible. Strategies can be followed to distribute words in different places.
  3. When it comes to keeping backups in a safe place, you mean writing them on paper and keeping them in a very safe place, a safe deposit box for example. Please note that if a third party finds your backup, they may have access to your funds. Bit2Me recommends that you should NEVER keep backup copies of seed phrases in emails, images or other digital media if they have not been encrypted. Since there is a risk that they will be hacked or hacked and that someone else can get hold of the funds.
  4. Many wallets allow add extra layers of security, such as setting a PIN or password to enhance security. But note that this is never a substitute for the seed phrase. So if you lose that extra password, you will also lose access to your addresses and funds.
  5. If, when setting up your wallet, you have the opportunity to set up your own seed phrase, don't do it. For security it is better to let the wallet software generate the seed phrase randomly.

And don't forget that, if you want to know more about how to protect your cryptocurrencies, a complete post is waiting for you where we explain How to protect your bitcoins: discover 7 ways. There you can find simple tips to protect not only your bitcoins but any other cryptocurrency that you have in your possession.