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!
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 Bitcoin paper wallet using the 8 phrase mnemonic seed above, 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 use to send and 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 learning.
Before diving into the HOW TO section, I would like to leave you with this funny yet accurate comic on security. Weather 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.
If you want to test out your own Brain Wallet and put your memorization skills to the test, first start with generating a paper wallet. Use lots of random movements (entropy) to generate your wallet.
Then under “enter your own key”, here you can put a mnemonic seed, that will then rewrite your private key to match. Make sure to use a minimum of 8 random words. Otherwise do nothing and use the default auto generated mnemonic seed and private key that was based off your random movements from the first part.
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 offline and print from an offline secure device)
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.
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In conclusion, this author believes there will eventually be state endorsed Bitcoin and crypto-asset-certified reserve banks in Canada and all around the word, where we will be able to buy and sell the asset (Switzerland already allows you to pay your tax and even university tuition in Bitcoin). However, in Canada we’re not likely to see such implementation into our economic reserves until another another decade or so. For now we have to trust the third party exchanges. But go LONG and invest and believe in the technology.
Just whatever you do, don’t forget/lose your private key or mnemonic seed – your life savings could depend on it!