Ethereum’s Upcoming Hard Fork Could End Lost Private Keys Issue

A Digital Key

Pectra hard fork is expected to go live in late 2024 or early 2025.

Ethereum (ETH), the second-largest blockchain platform by market capitalization, is poised to implement an innovative change that could restructure users’ interactions with their digital assets. 

The assurance comes from a new “social recovery” feature that will be integrated into the planned Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 3074 upgrade.  

Key Points About Private Keys. 

Private keys are fundamentally the cryptographic passwords that allow users to access and manage their crypto holdings. It is a large, randomly generated string of alphanumeric characters with hundreds of digits. However, if these keys are lost or forgotten, the assets become inaccessible, resulting in a considerable loss for the owner.  

In an X post on April 11, Ethereum core developer Tim Beiko officially confirmed EIP-3074 as a new addition to the Pectra hard fork.  

To utilize the social recovery tool, users must first transfer ownership of their assets to an invoker contract through a digital signature. The contract will subsequently execute future transactions and function calls on behalf of the user.  

During the delegation of ownership, the message in the digital signature will grant users the ability to reclaim their assets should they lose or forget their seed phrase. Crypto commentator Cygaar explained this feature in an X post on April 11. The implementation of the “AUTH” and “AUTHCALL” opcodes will facilitate this.  

How the 3074 Flow Works.

The AUTH opcode will take a user’s signature and intended action and verify proper signing. Subsequently, the AUTHCALL opcode will execute the target contract to conduct the transaction but will designate the user as the call instead of the invoker contract, according to Cygar. 

Additionally, Domothy expressed concerns about the possibility of funds being drained if users delegate their assets to a malicious invoker contract. Nevertheless, he expects a few formally verified and fully audited invoker contracts to become available following the Pectra upgrade.  

Over the years, it’s estimated that billions of dollars worth of crypto assets have been lost due to users forgetting or misplacing their private keys. 

Interestingly, users won’t necessarily need any ETH in their wallet to facilitate transactions, as the entity controlling the invoker contract can cover the upfront cost. 

“This could be huge for gaining mass retail adoption,” Cygaar said. 

“Right now, in order to swap tokens on Uniswap, you have to first approve Uniswap to use your tokens and then run the actual swap. It’s not great,” he added.

According to an X post, the Pectra hard fork is expected to go live in Q4 2024/Q1 2025 and will include the popular EIP-7251 (maxEB), EIP-3074 (account abstraction), and a few other EIPs.