Secure, Simple and Seedless

A new model for decentralised wallet recovery

Itamar Lesuisse
Sep 4, 2018
A photo of someone holding their iPhone and using Argent Ethereum wallet

We founded Argent to radically simplify how you access the decentralised web. We started by tackling the problems with holding and using cryptocurrencies. One problem is particularly significant: the fact you have to risk everything on a piece of paper with 24 words on it — your seed.

Seed phrases are an anachronism. Writing them out simply doesn’t make sense for what’s supposed to be the next era of your digital life. We’ve been telling people for years to stop writing their passwords on post-it notes and spreadsheets. Crypto shouldn’t be any different.

Yes, there is an alternative — trusting centralised custodians — but they defeat the point of the decentralised web and they’re security risks.

We were convinced there must be a better way and now there is:

Argent has made it possible to recover a wallet without seed phrases and without centralisation.

How? guardians.

No phone. No seed. No problem.

Our thinking with guardians was shaped by our experience with banks. Banks get a hard time but at least if you lose your card you don’t lose access to your account — forever. You just call, verify yourself and get sent a new card. Our challenge was how to replicate this in a fully decentralised way.

The solution — guardians — is to use the people or devices you already trust. You give them limited permission to help with specific tasks (such as approving a recovery). And these tasks are predefined in a smart contract. You’re always in control and can easily add or remove a guardian at any time.

It’s all as easy as a few taps of our app.

Here’s some background on the Argent wallet to help place guardians in context. It’s followed by a quick overview of how they work.

Argent — the secure and simple smart contract wallet

We’ve built the Argent wallet around Ethereum smart contracts. The private key to the wallet is stored secretly on your phone; the funds (ETH and ERC20 tokens) are safe in a smart contract.

The Argent app acts like a remote control to your account. (In technical terms your phone holds an Externally Owned Account that controls a Contract Account on the Ethereum network).

Why is our approach significant?

  • First, we can add logic to the wallet to improve user experience and security; logic such as guardians.
  • Second, your phone controls who can interact with the smart contract that holds your funds. Not Argent, not anybody else.
  • Third, guardians are defined at the smart contract level. As mentioned earlier, this means that you control them — not Argent.

Guardians — you’re in control

Guardians take three forms:

  1. People (e.g. friends or family with the Argent App)
  2. Devices (e.g. hardware wallets of your choice)
  3. Third party services (e.g. Argent Guard, using two factor authentication; or, in the future, a network of third party KYC providers)

You can have as many guardians as you want, in whatever combination you want. You can add or remove them at the tap of a button on your app.

Cryptocurrency expert that doesn’t trust anyone? Make hardware wallets your guardians. Newcomer to the field? Use friends or family you trust.

Guardians in action: how to recover a lost wallet

If you lose your phone or it’s stolen, you can now recover your wallet on a new phone by asking your guardians to approve the recovery.

The process is as simple as:

  1. Downloading the Argent app on your new phone
  2. Entering your Argent username (e.g. yourname.argentx.eth — we give ENS addresses to every user, for free)
  3. Contacting your guardians, who open their app and tap Recover
  4. Done!
Starting Argent Ethereum wallet recovery Authorising Argent Ethereum wallet recovery using Guardians

For extra security, ownership is only transferred after 48 hours. During those 48 hours, you can ask guardians to cancel the recovery process (for instance if you find your phone).

Guardians — a breakthrough for crypto usability and security

To summarise, we believe guardians represent a new era in crypto. You have the freedom to control your own funds while knowing you’re protected by those you trust.

P.S. We want this to be a cross-wallet standard and will be working on an EIP so that other projects can benefit from it and help us make crypto safer and simpler for everyone.

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