Crypto False #1. I will always be able to access my coins by seed phrase(?)


Crypto False #1. I will always be able to access my coins by seed phrase(?)
19.02.2023 20:20
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Nope! It's not uncommon when user import seed phrase into another wallet if, for example, wallet's server side has crashed and coins cannot be sent, but gets a different address than the one with the coins. And the balance is a zero.

In fact, to access the coins, you must have a private key - only it will give exact access to the desired address.

But to get a private key from the seed, you must know three things:

1) Mnemonic phrase must be correctly written down

2) Passphrase must be known

3) Derivation path  must be known

So, step by step.

1) It may seem trivial, but always write your mnemonic phrase very carefully. Better yet, restore your wallet by the seed phrase before using it. Once restored, you should see the same addresses for receiving. Most wallets use a dictionary of 2048 words, and the last word is a control word, so it is difficult to make so many mistakes that you can't restore the wallet later. BUT. Note that "most" does not equal "all wallets". There are wallets that do not use a dictionary and will accept any value during import, so a mistake in one letter can be fatal. So, always rewrite the phrase carefully and test the wallet recovery.

Now remember - seed generates only the master (root) private key, from which the tree of private keys and addresses grows.

2) Many people do not realize the existence of passphrase. A passphrase is an additional word or phrase that in combination with the main mnemonic phrase changes the root private key and therefore the entire keys/addresses tree. Some wallets do not provide for changing the passphrase, and it is always empty. And some wallets require the passphrase, but more often it is just an option. Inattentive users can set up a passphrase, mistaking it for a regular password to log into the wallet interface. This is where the greatest danger lurks - forgetting the "password" will prevent you from regaining access to the coins, even knowing the basic mnemonic phrase. The advice here is the same - try to restore access to the coins using a different password. Not all wallets are obvious what you actually enter - a simple password or passphrase. If you use passphrase, you need to keep it as safe as a seed.

3) What is a derivation path. If the main private key is the root of the key tree, then the derivation paths are branches. That is, above the root of the tree there can be 4 billion branches, each of which can divide into another 4 billion branches and so on. This means that without knowing the branch index at each level, you will not be able to find the desired private key.

For example - m/44'/0'/0'/0/0 - where "m" means that the master private key is used. This will be the derivation path for the very first legacy Bitcoin address (beginning with "1"), if the wallet strictly follows the BIP43/BIP44 standards. These standards describe what branches the wallet should use for a particular coin, account number, and change addresses. For example, the second index points a coin. 0 (m/44'/0'/0/0) is for Bitcoin, 60 (m/44'/60'/0/0) is for Ethereum and so on. In simple words, a derivation path is a map that can be used to find a specific private key and address on the key tree. The bad news is that not all wallets use standardized derivation paths. In some cases, you'll have to search for the private key manually, using Ian Coleman's utility and importing into another wallet exactly the private key, not the seed phrase. The utility can be downloaded from github as an html file and used offline.

The derivation paths should be clearly specified either in the wallet documentation or in the wallet interface, but even that doesn't always work. The same wallet may use different derivation paths in different versions. That is, seed created in an old version may show zero balance in a newer version. If there is no information about the derivation paths at all or it does not correspond to reality, as in Atomic Wallet, such wallets cannot be used categorically. However, Atomic Wallet has the ability to export private keys for each coin, seed in most cases is useless.

Unfortunately, there is no general concept of gaining access to any coins by seed phrase, because the BIP39 phrase does not store information about derivation paths, and wallets do not follow the same derivation paths standard.

Here I can give you two advises:

1) Experiment with recovery, as in the first two points, but in a different wallet. Ian Coleman's tool and can help you - it contains information about Bitcoin derivation paths in various wallets, the availability of required/optional passphrases, and whether external recovery methods are documented. Unfortunately, the information not covered all wallets and focuses only on Bitcoin. Of course, any experiments should be performed on a newly created seed, your task is to get the same receiving address for the coin you are searched.

2) When writing seed, be sure to specify in which wallet including version it is created. This will help you find information about derivation paths in the future.

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