What is self-custody?

Self-custody is a means of holding your digital assets by which only you have access to them. This means that you choose not to use a third party, and instead will manage your private key personally. There are different kinds of self-custody solutions that vary in their security and ease of use, so we recommend that you spend some time learning about the various options that are available before making a decision about how you wish to proceed. You can learn more about cold storage and other key concepts by checking out the associated links in this document, but we highly recommend that you research these subjects yourself thoroughly before proceeding.


Cold Storage:

Cold storage means that you are keeping private keys stored offline in a device that is not connected to the internet. Cold storage is a popular solution for self-custody because it increases the complexity of being hacked, and requires that your cold storage mechanism be physically compromised.

Additional resources:

Some examples of cold storage include:

  • Hard wallets: A hard wallet is a physical device that holds your digital assets. Private keys are stored in a secure part of the device that does not come into contact with the Internet. This reduces the risks that are associated with devices connected to the Internet, but it also means that if you lose access to your hard wallet you will be unable to access your cryptocurrency. However, hard wallets are typically seeded with a secret seed phase that can be backed up in the form of a paper wallet (see below). In case of loss of the device you can then initialize a new device with the backed up seed and regain access to your digital assets.
  • Air gapped computers: An air gapped computer is isolated from insecure networks that interact with the Internet or unsecured local area networks in your home.
  • Paper: A paper wallet is a piece of printed paper that contains your important key information (in some cases, even a QR code) and is used for facilitating cryptocurrency transactions. Paper is often not recommended because it is susceptible to degradation and could be insecure or lost easily.

It is ultimately your responsibility to research the available cryptocurrency wallet solutions available to you. It is also your responsibility to keep your digital assets safe. With this in mind, please take note of the following recommendations:

  • Do not use your work computer to configure a digital asset storage solution. Your private personal data could be lost or in some way compromised while hosted on a work computer. DFINITY is not responsible for personal data that is compromised or lost for any reason on work devices.
  • Do not leave your cold storage wallet or private information in a public place, where it could be compromised.
  • Do not lose your private key. If lost, you will be permanently unable to access your digital assets. 


To learn more about ICP custody options and self-custody, visit the Internet Computer Wiki.