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What happens when seed phrases are compromised while you’re abroad?

Recently, a Casa Private Client was able to restore his Casa vault to full security from two compromised seed phrases while on a Caribbean island, thanks to the swift response of our advisors.

About the client

Chuck is a retired business owner and a Casa Private Client. We have altered some of his personal details to protect his privacy.

A journey to self-custody

A few years ago, Chuck came to view bitcoin as a major opportunity, but he was nervous about taking self-custody, recognizing that though he was a sophisticated investor, he could be scatter-brained at times, and he was concerned about potentially being hacked.

“I have a lot going on. Sometimes, I can't even keep track of my car keys, let alone my bitcoin keys,” Chuck said.

He started out by storing his bitcoin with custodians. Feeling at the time that bitcoin was a bleeding-edge technology, he decided to split his assets across multiple custodians rather than rely on just one. He continued to have mixed feelings about custodians, and he experienced poor customer support at one institution.

“I would email and it’d be days before I got an email response,” Chuck said. “And it wasn’t even accurate when it came back. It wasn't responsive to my question.”

He also discovered many custodians had high minimum balances, making it harder to spread his assets around. Over time, he consolidated his holdings with fewer custodians. As he continued exploring bitcoin-related content, he learned about self-custody as a concept and how Casa could help.

The contingency plan

By 2022, Chuck was doing some fact-finding on different jurisdictions for a potential permanent residence, and he was concerned about geopolitical threats to his bitcoin. He understood how self-custody can be implemented with a decentralized model through Casa to avoid being overly reliant on one location.

He became a Casa member and set up a 6-key vault initially as a contingency plan. While he was still comfortable with custodians, he liked having self-custody as an option. That way, if there ever was a catastrophe, he could transfer his assets to self-custody quickly.

That fateful day soon came. In late 2022, the crypto derivatives platform FTX filed for bankruptcy, along with numerous other companies. Custodial risk had proven devastating for many bitcoin investors around the world. These events motivated Chuck to begin transferring funds into self-custody.

“After the FTX debacle, I just decided there’s risk no matter what, and I was going to feel more comfortable with self-custody,” Chuck said.

A simple, smooth recovery…on island time

Once his vault was set up, Chuck began distributing his keys across different locations. He opted to keep two seed plates to help with potential recovery if the need arose. He placed the seed plates in a tamper-evident bag and gave the bag to a relative.

The relative planned on placing the tamper-evident bag in a safe deposit box, but he placed the bag underneath his bed at home in the interim. When he finally went to move the bags, he noticed they were open and he called Chuck to let him know.

At the time, Chuck was in Grenada, a Caribbean island far away from where the seed phrases were located. Because the bags were open, Chuck had to assume the seed phrases were compromised. A malicious actor could photograph a seed phrase and repopulate a key onto another device. While he did not know if someone had obtained the seed phrases, the prudent course of action was to replace the keys.

As a Private Client, Chuck can access emergency support from our advisors 24/7. Chuck’s first step was to email our team and inform them of the situation. Josh, an advisor on our team, went to work right away and guided Chuck through how key replacement would work. He understood Chuck was in a different time zone and was willing to do whatever it took to help.

“He said, ‘I’ll talk with you anytime — it’s important to me to get this taken care of for you,’” Chuck recalled. “I’m getting a little choked up about it because it was really nice to feel like somebody cared and they were that competent, dedicated, and focused.”

Our team put together a care package with new devices and cables and shipped it to the island. Once the package was in hand, Josh worked with Chuck to initialize the devices and provided security tips along the way.

“The calls were as fun as they could possibly be,” Chuck said. “I couldn’t imagine a better customer support experience.”

Secure your assets with peace of mind

Casa helps you take self-custody of your digital wealth, and we have a plan for every investor.

Schedule a call with a Casa advisor here to learn more.

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