June 22, 2023

Social Recovery Wallets

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The current landscape of cryptocurrency security is one that demands constant vigilance and technical competence. It can be an intimidating space for beginners and even for experienced users. However, imagine if there was a system that mitigated the risk of wallet theft and loss while simultaneously leveraging our inherent human social capabilities? Well, we don't have to imagine. Enter: Social Recovery Wallets.

Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, in a recent insightful piece, outlines a solution that promises to drastically transform how we handle wallet security - social recovery wallets. Buterin's article provides a comprehensive yet straightforward explanation of the concept, its advantages, and the future prospects of social recovery wallets. Let's delve into the main ideas shared by Buterin.

What Are Social Recovery Wallets?

Social recovery wallets are a unique approach to crypto wallet security. They bring an added layer of protection by introducing the concept of guardians. The idea is that you entrust several other entities, referred to as guardians, with the ability to help you recover your wallet in case you lose access to it.

Guardians could be other devices you own, trusted friends or family, or even institutions. The good news? Guardians don't need to download and use the same wallet; they can use their existing Ethereum wallet.

The Invisible Guardians

Here's where things get interesting. These guardians don't have to be known publicly and don't even need to know each other. 

According to Buterin, there are two ways to maintain anonymity among your guardians. The first involves storing a hash of the list of addresses on chain, only revealing the full list at recovery time. 

The second method entails each guardian generating a new, single-use address just for a specific recovery.

This mechanism not only ensures privacy but also significantly reduces the risk of simultaneous attacks or collusion among guardians.

Social Recovery: A Betrayal or Extension of Crypto Values?

Some critics argue that the reliance on guardians means that we're going back to "trusting people," which seems to defy the decentralized essence of blockchain. However, Buterin strongly opposes this viewpoint. In his view, crypto's aim is not to remove all trust but to offer people more choice in who to trust.

With multisig and social recovery, each participant has some influence over transactions, but no single entity can unilaterally control the funds. This setup is arguably more secure than having one person or key with full control.

The Role of Vaults in Social Recovery Wallets

How can social recovery wallets protect against theft? 

Buterin's solution is an automatically generated vault that comes with every social recovery wallet. Assets can be moved into the vault with a one-week delay for withdrawal. During this time, the transaction can be canceled if necessary, providing another layer of security against theft.

Existing Implementations and Future Prospects

Two notable wallets implementing social recovery are the Argent wallet and the Loopring wallet. However, as pointed out by Buterin, they face two main challenges: dependence on a centralized "relayer" run by the wallet maker and high transaction fees.

But there's a potential solution on the horizon: Layer 2 protocols such as optimistic rollups and ZK rollups. Migrating to these protocols would address both challenges and place smart contract wallets as a central element in securing users' funds.


Buterin's deep dive into social recovery wallets paints a promising future for wallet security in the space. With their potential to leverage our social structures and robust security mechanisms, social recovery wallets could become a game-changer in how we handle and protect our digital assets.

As the crypto ecosystem evolves, it's paramount that security measures also advance to keep pace. And thanks to forward-thinking innovators like Buterin, we're seeing a future that's both secure and user-friendly. It's an exciting time to be part of the crypto world!

Click here to view Buterin's full article.