Cryptocurrency wallet software can be intimidating to use. With crypto, you are your own bank, which sounds great until you realize that you and only you are responsible for keeping your money safe.
This generally means that you must go through the process of creating a new wallet, setting up a password and writing a long list of words known as a seed phrase.
You should also store the seed phrase securely, because it is the only backup of your money in case something goes wrong with your wallet.
Israeli ZenGo has just launched a cryptocurrency wallet that uses smart cryptography to make this process much simpler.
A very short manual: A cryptocurrency wallet is essentially a pair of public and private cryptographic keys.
The public key is your cryptocurrency address (Technically, it's a part of the address but be simple), the same one you use to receive funds. The private key is a long chain of symbols that allows you to spend the funds that reside in that direction.
The private key is simple but impractical to use every day. If someone takes a picture of you, or cuts your PC or phone and takes it, you can spend your cryptocurrencies at will.
This is why we have a wallet software, which rarely (if any) shows or requires you to enter your private key. Instead, choose some type of password to protect your funds, but your private key remains in your possession, usually as the initial phrase mentioned above.
And if your phone or PC is stolen
You can reinstall the wallet software, mark the start phrase and access your money. The seed phrase, although it is a little easier to write than the private key, is also long and difficult to remember.
So people usually write it on a piece of paper that, once again, is easy to get lost or stolen. If you have the misfortune of losing your seed phrase and (for example) the phone with your wallet software, your money will be gone forever.
Keeping it simple – with your face
With ZenGo, the process of creating your crypto wallet consists of these simple steps: install the application, enter your email, click on the link you received by email and have the application scan your face.
Once you've done that, you can start receiving and sending Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are currently the only two cryptoassets compatible with ZenGo.
And if you lose your phone or mobile
You can install the application on a new phone, scan your face and your funds will be restored immediately.
Now, you may have seen certain services or wallets that are not complicated to use: one of the world's most popular cryptocurrency exchanges, Coinbase.
But that's different: Coinbase doesn't allow you to control your own private keys. This approach creates a different kind of danger: if Coinbase is hacked or compromised in any way, there is no way to recover their funds. In other words, you are not your own bank, Coinbase is your bank.
Solve the two problems described above. Instead of the seed phrase, use facial scanning. And instead of storing all the cryptographic information derived from that facial scan on your servers, divide the pieces of the puzzle necessary to restore your wallet between your servers and your iCloud account.
This is done by using a technology called threshold signatures, in which several parts are needed to create the private key. In this case, ZenGo servers and your mobile phone must cooperate to generate the key.
Thanks to all this background technology, ZenGo does not require you to use any type of password or password, ever. Your face is your password, even when you need to send funds, and even when you need to restore them.
I have tried ZenGo with Ethereum
Apart from some first error messages when registering, it worked as advertised. Receiving and sending funds to my address worked as if I was using any other wallet.
By sending a small amount of ether to my ZenGo wallet, the application immediately sent me a notification that the funds are entering.
And to send some ether, all I had to do was choose a reception address and press a button; After a successful facial scan, funds were on the way.
Have your funds insured
For a facial scan it can be scary, especially knowing that technologies like Apple's Face ID have been previously defeated.
But ZenGo says it uses a very secure facial scanning technology called ZoOm. The Executive Director of ZenGo, Ouriel Ohayon, told me by email that ZoOm has been "Tested in the battle against millions of users, including banks", and that "you can't" to play.
They can be scary and complex for new users, and wallet software, being an entry to own crypto, should be as simple as possible without sacrificing security.
ZenGo is by far the simplest cryptocurrency wallet software I've used, both for everyday use and to restore your wallet.
There is room to improve
The software itself is very scarce in terms of features (although that may also be good), and only two cryptocurrencies are supported.
Ohayon told me that more assets will be admitted very soon, and that an Android version of the application should be released in the "coming weeks." In addition, more features come, some of which are "not possible" with traditional wallet applications.
ZenGo cryptography is solid and open to public evaluation, it would be difficult to recommend storing large amounts of money in it until it is a little more proven on the battlefield.
However, in general, ZenGo's focus on keeping things simple by using innovative cryptographic solutions to secure its funds makes it a welcome addition to the cryptocurrency space.