12 days ago 2 min read

Vitalik Buterin: Safe Self-Custody Requires A Diverse Group Of Guardians


Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, has underlined the value of having a diverse group of "guardians" to maximize the security of crypto assets held in self-custody using multisig and social recovery wallets.

Self-custody and upholding adequate wallet safety protocols have never been more crucial given the recent rise in cryptocurrency scams and hacks as well as the impending collapse of numerous major crypto enterprises in 2022.

"How I think about choosing guardians for multisig and social recovery wallets" by Buterin, was the subject of a post on the r/ethereum community's Reddit page on March 16.

Multisig wallets and social recovery wallets both rely on guardians, which effectively act as external sources to recover cash or approve transactions, despite the fact that their structures differ. In general, Guardians can be addresses under the supervision of other individuals or entities or groups of external wallets belonging to the same person.

Owning more than one wallet guardian presents a "tricky tradeoff: you get to trust other people less, but you're also concentrating more power into yourself, which can create a risk if you get hacked, coerced, or incapacitated or die," according to Buterin, who believes that wallet guardians should be decentralized.

“My rule of thumb is that enough guardians should be controlled by other people that if you disappear there are enough other guardians left to recover your funds.”

However, they should still be able to locate one another in the event that the owner of the wallet becomes incapacitated. Buterin continued by advising that a person's guardians should not be aware of one another as this "greatly reduces the risk that they collude" to attack their wallets and assets.

“If something happens to you, they will still be able to find each other, because there are obvious standard protocols that naturally come to people's minds in such a situation (eg. contact your family),” he added

The Ethereum co-founder further advised users to "instruct guardians to pose a security question" before verifying an operation that only they and the guardian would know the answer to, and to only confirm when the correct response is supplied.

The Ethereum co-founder also emphasized that degen traders, or those not making long-term HODL trades, should choose guardians that can react rapidly to suit their fast-moving demands.

“If you're doing degen stuff with on-chain contracts, you may need to act quickly: pull money out if a contract gets a vulnerability, move money around if you are close to being liquidated, etc. If your needs include this, then you want to find guardians who can act quickly on short notice.”

At least once a year, Buterin advised checking each guardian to ensure that they "haven't forgotten or lost their accounts."

Maintaining adequate wallet safety protocols has never been more crucial given the rise in crypto scammers and breaches over the previous few years, as well as the closure of several crypto enterprises in 2018.

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