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Crypto Hodler’s Mnemonic phrase can be predicted by smartphone: Reddit user warns

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As the use of crypto is increasing daily, more and more people are securing their digital assets in several crypto wallets. This development has led to a spike in the use of mnemonic phrases or seed phrases to secure crypto holdings in digital wallets. A mnemonic phrase is one of the primary security layers used to protect digital assets in crypto wallets.

As safe as the seed phrase seems to be, a recent development has questioned its safety. It has recently been discovered that a smartphone’s ‘prediction typing’ feature can guess your seed phrase when trying to log in to your wallet. What do you do when your smartphone seems to be even ‘smarter?’ Do you figure out how to create a new cryptocurrency wallet or disable the feature entirely from your smartphone?

This development was first noticed by a German I.T professional, Andre, who went ahead to make it public via the Reddit platform. He narrated how he noticed that his phone was accurately predicting his seed phrase just after entering the first word.

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In an interview with Cointelegraph, the I.T professional expressed his amazement when he noticed that his smartphone was able to accurately predict his 12-24 word long seed phrase. This scenario he believed was not merely a coincidence.

To further prove his point, Andre was able to replicate the scenario as his smartphone was able to predict his seed phrase yet again. It was after this realization that he decided to inform crypto hodlers and crypto enthusiasts about the possible danger of this feature. He further stressed the need for them to be careful when logging into their digital wallets on their smartphones. 

Andre’s initial venture into the crypto world started in 2015, fueled by the realization that he could make use of Bitcoin to purchase goods and pay for services.

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Also Read: Is Bitcoin Crash Eminent? Prolonged Ukraine War Could Precipitate It

What Is a Seed Phrase and How Does It Work?

The seed phrase serves as a password to a user’s crypto digital wallet. The crypto wallet also holds the private keys of a crypto hodler. The private keys are exclusively accessed by the wallet owner, except it is a custodial wallet- which requires access to a user’s private keys. The private key is to be kept securely by the crypto investor alone and not shared with a third party. A user’s BTC wallet transactions can be monitored anytime using a Bitcoin Explorer.

This seed phrase typically consists of 12, 18, or 24 words, depending on the wallet in question. The seed phrase is usually an implementation of the Bitcoin Improvement Protocol. Shortened as BIP 39, this protocol enables the tethering of private keys to certain phrases or words. This set of words is what is called the private key. If a crypto hodler loses his seed phrase, it leaves the crypto holdings in his digital wallet susceptible to attack by crypto hackers or worse, permanent loss of access. The BIP 39 protocol has a total of 2048 words in it. 

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The longer a seed phrase is, the more difficult it is to crack. For example, to crack a seed phrase of 12 words, a crypto hacker will have to figure out random 12-word combinations that can be formed from 2048 words, an almost impossible feat. the longer the phrase, the more combinations to try. The phrase is also protected by a 128-bit blockchain security shield.

Some other crypto wallets have a ‘passphrase’ feature that provides an additional layer of security to a crypto hodler’s funds. In this case, even if a crypto hacker gets hold of your seed phrase, your assets are still secure because the hacker won’t gain access till the passphrase is entered.

However, this feature comes with a big disadvantage. Given a situation whereby you forget your passphrase, you get permanently locked out from gaining access to your crypto wallet- even if you remember your seed phrase.

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The Implication Of This Realisation

This realization by Andre has brought to light the fact that this feature now makes it easy for hackers to gain access to a wallet owner’s funds. The hacker can simply get access to a user’s smartphone, open any typing app and type words from the BIP 39 word list and follow the smartphone’s suggestions.

As a further experiment, the I.T professional used a variety of keyboards and devices to see which ones are more likely to accurately predict the imputed seed phrase. The result of his experiment showed that the least susceptible software was the Google GBoard. This is because the software was unable to suggest the words in their proper order.

On the other hand, the Microsoft Swiftkey showed a high level of vulnerability as it was able to predict the words in their exact manner. If the ‘auto replace’ and text suggestion features of a Samsung keyboard are activated, it is also able to suggest words.

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The I.T professional after making this issue public went ahead to give security advice to crypto wallet owners. According to him, a hardware wallet should be used to keep long-term or massive crypto holdings instead. 

He also specially addressed members of the platform, Reddit, on how to safeguard their crypto. 

He advised them to always do their own research, rather than rely on others. He also advised them not to have the fear of missing out, but rather only invest what they are willing to forgo.

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Additionally, he told them to always confirm the address they are sending funds to. 

Concluding Thoughts

The seed phrase plays a vital role in blockchain security by ensuring the safety of a user’s funds.

But with this new development, a user has to be very alert to ensure the continued safety of his funds.

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Whether you decide to completely disable the prediction feature or you stop accessing your wallet on your smartphone, you mist do all you can to protect your seed phrase and private keys.

What do you think of this development? Which other safety precaution do you suggest?

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