Is Crypto’s IP Address Issue Finally Solved?


A new crypto tool launched at ETH Denver promises to finally bring privacy to web3, without the need for users to take complicated technical steps like running a full node or juggling ineffective VPN services. RPCh – the first commercial product built on top of the HOPR privacy mixnet – integrates directly into crypto wallets to protect users’ private data, including their all-important IP address.

It’s 2023, and anyone with even a little crypto experience knows that the only way to keep your tokens safe is to take them out of the exchange and hold them in a wallet you control – not your keys, not your coins.

As a crypto user, you probably spread your portfolio across multiple addresses. Maybe you have different accounts for different tokens, or a main wallet and a bunch of smaller ones. Perhaps one for investing and one for personal transactions. Whatever the reason, it’s likely you have different accounts and spend some time and effort juggling transactions on-chain to keep them separate.

And you aren’t alone. An estimated 70 million crypto users shun centralized exchanges for decentralized wallets to try and have full financial control of their assets.

Well I’m sad to have to tell you that all that hard work was probably ruined by your wallet.

You see, whenever you use your wallet – or any crypto service for that matter – it needs to get data from the chain to work. It needs your balance, the current block number, up-to-date token prices, all kinds of things. This data is gathered using remote procedure calls (RPC), a service provided through an RPC provider. The biggest two RPC providers are Infura and Alchemy, billion-dollar companies that process trillions of these RPC calls a year.

So far, so technical. But what you need to know is this: the way these RPC calls are currently handled ruin all those on-chain privacy efforts in a blink of an eye.

Take MetaMask, the most popular Ethereum wallet. Before you even log in to the browser extension, MetaMask fires off RPC calls for EVERY address in the wallet. Those addresses you spent so much time and effort keeping separate, now linked together permanently in the blink of an eye.

MetaMask used to even put all the addresses in the same RPC call! That at least has stopped, but the link still remains. Why? Because every call is tagged with metadata. Things like timestamps, data size and, most importantly, the IP address.

But you’re a smart crypto user. You probably use a VPN to hide your IP address. Doesn’t matter. Because it doesn’t need to be YOUR IP address. The point is that these calls are fired off in a matter of milliseconds, each tagged with the same IP address. It could be yours, it could be the VPN, but they have the same tag, and now the addresses can be linked.

This isn’t an excuse to dunk on MetaMask. They’re just the most popular wallet and the one which happened to be embroiled in an IP address storing scandal late last year. The truth is that unless you’re running your own RPC provider, or accessing each address from a different wallet on a different device in a different location, your accounts aren’t as private as you think.

In fact, wallets themselves are keen to fix the problem. Privacy-focused wallets like BlockWallet have existed since the dawn of crypto, but their developers were always faced with the same problem: no matter how much effort you put into encryption and on-chain data, the fundamental structure of the Internet undermines your efforts.

Even mainstream wallets want a solution: they know their users value privacy, and they also know that all these IP addresses and other metadata are a compliance nightmare and a target for hackers.

Enter RPCh, the new crypto service aimed at freeing wallets from their reliance on old-school data transport solutions, and providing crypto users with full financial privacy at last.

RPCh integrates directly into wallets, so users don’t need a complex technical setup. In fact, from the user perspective a wallet with RPCh behaves exactly like they’re used to. Everything – including the cost – is handled by the wallet and the mixnet which runs underneath RPCh.

This mixnet is called HOPR, from the same team behind RPCh. When you make a transaction over RPCh, the RPC call will be split into pieces, relayed via multiple HOPR node runners and then reassembled by the RPC provider. The call is then answered, and the response returns across the mixnet via a different route.

The wallet still gets to use RPC calls like before, but the crucial difference is that now each RPC call is associated with dozens of different IP addresses. This severs the linkability and ensures user privacy.

RPCh was officially launched this week at an event in ETH Denver. Although this first version is an alpha, RPCh is already directly integrated into BlockWallet, with an ever-growing list of wallets joining in the coming months. Even heavy-hitter MetaMask has been collaborating with the team in an attempt to address their privacy woes.

Even if your preferred wallet isn’t directly integrated, you can still try it out for yourself with a small amount of setup via the RPCh access page.

Time will tell if this is the privacy solution which finally fixes crypto’s IP Address problem, but the team’s focus on wallets and usability suggests that for the first time privacy might be in reach for the almost 70 million regular crypto users who want financial control and privacy, without needing a degree in computer science to achieve it.

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