Crypto investors are always confronted with the daunting task of how do I safeguard my digital assets. I can trust my exchange and hope that a compromise will not rob me of my funds. I can also choose to have an offline wallet, which will house my private “keys”, but then I need to keep my keys and access to my wallet in a safe place. In any event, hackers and thieves can always find a way to break through my defenses, if left to their own devices.
Fortunately, there are not only one, but two new security methods being showcased in the recent news. One approach from the firm Keyless is exactly as it sounds. It uses biometric technologies to gain access to your private keys. A second company, Vault12, made its debut during San Francisco Blockchain Week. Its method is to literally break your key down into parts, which are then shared with trusted parties. Both approaches have caused a stir in the venture capital word, since applications are far reaching.
According to Coindesk:
The London-based firm, [Keyless], claims to be the first in the world to combine biometrics with secure multi-party computation and has attracted investors like venture fund gumi Cryptos Capital, which led the round, as well as Ripple’s Xpring, Blockchain Valley Ventures and LuneX.
Xpring Senior VP Ethan Beard is intrigued with the Keyless product idea because he sees broad potential in several other industries, but especially in the crypto arena:
During our technical review, we found Keyless’ solution to be clever and well thought out. We believe Keyless’ solution will be particularly welcomed by wallet providers and exchanges to accelerate the verification process for crypto holders.
The Keyless process sounds complex, but Paolo Gasti, Keyless co-founder and chief technology officer, has been perfecting his procedure for ten years and has gotten the computation time duration down under 100 milliseconds. A user can choose to have such biometric measures as hand, face and voice, along with parts of the algorithm that does the computation, stored at separate network nodes, until called upon.
In other works, a hacker or network spy cannot see all of the parts at one time. Per Gasti:
We don’t want the network to spy on user biometrics. This way the authentication happens right there and wasn’t just a session replay of a previous authentication. The product allows low-latency execution without having any effect on security.
Vault12, a company building personal cryptocurrency security solutions, has taken a different path to solve the “digital asset protection” conundrum. Its marketing materials claim that it is the “first personal cryptocurrency security solution to provide distributed, decentralized backup of crypto assets for individual users.” It has also attracted the attention of a notable group of investors, including Naval Ravikant, True Ventures, and Winklevoss Capital.
According to the press release, reported by DeCrypt: “Instead of storing crypto funds on an exchange or cryptocurrency wallet, Vault12 customers house their assets using a decentralized storage network, encrypted using “Hierarchical Threshold Shamir’s Secret Sharing and advanced proprietary technology.” The “sharing” occurs on a network, where “secrets”, in this case encryption keys, are divided into parts and deposited with “guardians” on the network. Upon approval, the pieces are re-assembled for access.
Cameron Winklevoss noted to reporters in a statement that:
Safeguarding money is necessary for the crypto economy to flourish. Vault12’s distributed, decentralized and server-less approach to security helps reduce friction associated with securing crypto assets.
Max Skibinksy, co-founder and CEO of Vault12, explained:
Previously, to keep our digital money safe, we had to keep our extremely valuable cryptographic backups and pieces of paper and store them in traditional banks. It was ironic. We built Vault12 to be an innovative, convenient solution that replaced this cumbersome process.