Hardened 1Password emergency kit

2021-03-01

In security, things that are hardened are always better. How could they not be? They just sound cooler.

1Password emergency kits

I use 1Password, which is a good combination of featureful and secure. I’m impressed by what I read in their white paper (PDF link). It’s worth the price and more.

Part of their service is generation of an Emergency Kit. The kit contains the URL to sign in, the email address you used to create your account, a place to write your master password if you want to, and a Secret Key used to authenticate you.

1Password emergency kit sample

Critically, if you have access to any of your devices, you don’t need the Secret Key. But if you lose access to your devices, your account is not recoverable without the Secret Key.

Whatever. Is it hardened?

When you create your account, 1Password prompts you to print your Emergency Kit. It seems that they expect you to print this on paper. Paper is well known to not be very hard. In fact, regular people are able to tear it in half without using any tools.

So I hardened it.

Example first three washers in a hardened 1Password emergency kit My Secret Key, stamped into steel

Specifically, I stamped the secret key into stainless steel washers. I chose not to stamp my passphrase into washers as well; it’s something I type all the time and already have memorized.

How I stamped my Secret Key into steel washers

Basically, I just followed a guide designed for Bitcoin wallet seeds.

In short:

You use a hammer to stamp the washers, and the jig to keep your letters straight-ish. You’ll need to have a very hard surface behind the washer, like an anvil or a concrete garage floor. A wooden table will get seriously dented and, more importantly, the wood will absorb some of the impact of your hammer, so your stamps will be much fainter.

I used the garage floor. My back wished I hadn’t sat there for an hour and a half, though. Next time I might try to get an anvil.

I also recommend double-sided tape to keep the washer in one place during stamping.

The tools and washers on my garage floor The stamp set I got The bag of washers I got The jigs I bought

Why would you want to do this?

Well, now they’re hardened. Duh.

Por serio, it’s worth having a plan to recover your secrets (whether bitcoin or 1Password account) in the event of a house fire that destroys all your devices. I can keep my hardened Secret Key in a safe place in my house and feel secure knowing that my precious secrets now have increased fire resistance.

There are more normie options as well:

Is this a good idea?

There is at least one reason not to do this: the washers are quite difficult to destroy if you want to. The nice thing about paper is you can shred, burn, disolve, or eat it. It’s much more difficult to do those things with steel (although I am not claiming that they are impossible).

More closeups

Bad words are fun:

A washer that says FUCKSHIT

I was surprised how out-dented the back of the washer was. This is the reverse of that same washer:

The FUCKSHIT washer on the back

Comparing a few letters. Some of the stamps are pretty close. Oddly, they included a single stamp for 6 and 9, but two separate yet 100% identical 0 and O stamps. The 6 and 9 on this washer are from the same stamp; the 0 and O are from two separate stamps:

A stamp with G6-69CO0 to compare letters

Alternatives

The Bitcoin community has several dozen options for stamping a wallet seed into steel.

Another option I’ve seen recommended is buying blank steel dogtags and stamping the seed into them with the same kinds of stamps I used.

I chose washers because I liked that it was a DIY solution that didn’t depend on a niche cryptocurrency-adjacent vendor to stay in business, and because of the price.