User-Friendly Key Management on Ethereum

Kaden Zipfel
Dec 14, 2019 · 4 min read
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Key management as it currently exists in blockchains is unfamiliar to the vast majority of the population. When signing up for new services, users expect the usual email-password signup flow, and anything that strays from that is often avoided.

The combination of the technicality and consequences of key management can be disastrous. Key loss is unfortunately quite common and has likely lead to the loss of millions of dollars. Let’s take a look at how we’re working to make key management more user-friendly.

Mnemonics

Instead of storing a 40-character private key, this approach gives users a list of 12 random words, making it much easier to store, or even memorize. Though this was a significant improvement, it doesn’t appear to be an effective enough method to store a significant amount of financial value, since it can still be easily lost or destroyed.

Multi-Signature Wallets

Multisig wallets can also make use of more advanced functionality. For example, they can be configured to allow owners to agree upon adding or removing a member to the group. They can even be configured to be modified by governance models so that non-owners can vote on certain actions, such as removing an owner from the group.

As useful as multisig wallets can be, they can still have their pitfalls. It is imperative that the wallet owners are trustworthy, otherwise corrupt owners can collude to drain the funds. Although unlikely, it is also possible that enough owners lose access to their private keys, meaning that there aren’t enough members to meet the threshold to perform actions, though this can be circumvented by adding members back as soon as they lose access to their private key.

Social Recovery

As with other approaches to key management, it is not a perfect approach. Like with multisig wallets, if your trusted members aren’t as trustworthy as they seem, they can collude to gain account access and steal your funds.

Advanced Social Recovery

Argent guardians works similarly to standard social recovery, except the guardians used for account recovery don’t actually have access to your funds. Instead, your guardians have access to a limited selection of administrative functions. They can lock your wallet, approve a wallet recovery, or approve a transfer that exceeds your daily limit.

KYC

Time Lock Recovery

Conclusion

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References

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