Research: The Power of the Brain Wallet
One of the most fascinating ideas that originally got me excited about cryptocurrencies was this concept of a “Brain Wallet”. Simply put, a Brain Wallet is a series of numbers that you could memorize to store a value of funds completely offline from the network, and without any physical trace – in your brain, that only you have access to!
You need to memorize this series of numbers exactly, or you could lose your funds forever with no way of recovering them. The only element required to access your brain stored value, is a connection to the internet.
I’ll use the classical example of Bitcoin and its SHA-256 encryption algorithm. Each cryptocurrency has its own unique algorithm, encryption, and messaging methods.
To memorize a Brain Wallet, there is an easy way and a hard way to do this. Luckily the easy way allows one to use a mnemonic seed (first “m” is silent), which can be related to any series of dictionary words, and hence easier to memorize:
“CAT PERSON GARLIC COFFEE KEYBOARD TREE MOVING NOTEPAD”
The above example would be an 8 phrase mnemonic seed. Usually these seeds are set 8, 16, or 24 words long. They can also be randomly generated or user defined. For maximum security one would want to use 24 random words, and not an 8 phrase seed that is directly quoted from a book for example.
The harder way to memorize your brain wallet would be directly from your private key. If we generate a new Bitcoin wallet form source code (see: HOW TO section), it would return a public address and private key.
The private key (51 characters, case sensitive) is what you would have to memorize to allow you to unlock and send your funds from your public address. This may or may not be harder to memorize than your mnemonic seed, depending on your personal preference.
You can import a private key to the Bitcoin core wallet and it will automatically find the associated public address’ for you. Think of your public address as your unique account ID, that you would have to give to someone to receive Bitcoins. It is safe to share your public address and you don’t necessarily have to memorize it as long as you know your mnemonic seed and/or private key. The neat thing is these addresses can be represented in a QR code for easy reading and machine reading.
You can use free wallet balance checker apps to see the balance of the address.
On Android PlayStore:
“Wealth Check – Bitcoin Wallet Balance and History” by Juraj Kusnier
and on iOS Apple Store:
“Bitcoin Monitor – Market Check” by Leszek Szary
Scan the public address QR code, and you will see the balance is 0BTC. Of course we would not want any funds on it, as the matching private key is displayed here! Someone could easily the sweep the wallet and take our precious BTC.
Before diving into the HOW TO section, I would like to leave you with this funny yet accurate comic on security. Wether your seed is actually stored in your brain or behind military grade encryption in a computer, you are never safe from being “hacked”. High net value individuals carry special insurance for this very reason.
For an easy and quick way to invest into a Paper Wallet and own physical Bitcoin, we have designed a service for you here. We generate the public address for you, print the matching private key hidden inside the wallet from an offline cold-storage system, on one of our cool wallet design graphics (6 to choose from). Then once delivered and you confirm the package, we load your wallet with the ordered funds by sending to the public address you now have in your hands, and delete the private key record from our system, hence now only you own the private keys and physical Bitcoin in your hands! You could then memorize your private key, and destroy your paper wallet, now you would have a true Brain Wallet! But we do not suggest to try this 🙂 It is easier to stuff the Paper Wallet under the mattress or in a fire-proof safe for long term storage.
If you want to test out making your own Brain / Paper Wallet, and put your memorization and Bitcoin skills to the test, first start with creating a new public address and then exporting its private key using the Bitcoin Core source client command line as can be downloaded from bitcoin.org [we will show step-by-step examples within the Bitcoin Core client in a future article release]
Copy the keys and print off your paper wallet, memorize it, and then destroy your paper wallet original or back it up in a safe if you think you might forget. If you are going to store more than 1% of your net worth, generate the paper wallet from source code within an isolated cold storage system that has never touched the internet, and print from an offline secure device that has also never touched the internet.
Lastly, send some Bitcoins to your public address on your new and installed Brain Wallet! You now officially have funds in your mind, that only you can access so long as you’re alive and mentally able to recall it.
Just whatever you do, don’t forget/lose your private key or mnemonic seed – your life savings could depend on it!