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Company | 07/08/2024

Ledger’s Clear Signing Initiative: Paving the Way for Safer Transactions

Key Takeaways:
— Blind signing poses a significant obstacle to the security and growth of the digital asset ecosystem. Scammers have exploited this vulnerability, siphoning billions of dollars from unsuspecting users across various platforms and blockchains.

— Ledger has devised a standardized method to transform complex smart contract data into clear, human-readable information, ensuring“what you see is what you sign.”

— Achieving widespread adoption of Clear Signing necessitates collaboration across the digital asset ecosystem, thus, Ledger is actively engaging with industry leaders, blockchain developers, and partners committed to this initiative.

Ledger has been at the forefront of digital asset security for a decade. Our comprehensive approach integrates hardware, software, a proprietary secure operating system, and secure touchscreens. As the primary hardware solution featuring a secure screen, a Ledger device allows you to trust the transaction details it shows, empowering users to generate and safeguard private keys offline, and ensuring peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.

However, the landscape of digital assets has evolved significantly since Ledger’s inception. It’s no longer just about holding or transferring value. Innovation has driven the emergence of new use cases, including DeFi and NFTs, which made smart contract transactions the norm. These more complex transactions have opened up a new attack vector. To clarify, most wallet interfaces struggle to provide users with the means to verify what they’re signing, a concept known as Blind Signing.

To combat this risk, Ledger has developed a new standard to help avoid these risky transactions that don’t display their full details. But before we get there, what is Blind Signing exactly and why is avoiding it so important?

Understanding and Addressing the Risks of Blind Signing

Blind signing in the digital asset world is akin to signing a blank check—a move exposing you to significant financial and security risks. This process involves authorizing a transaction without fully understanding or seeing its details. This typically results in a display filled with an incomprehensible sequence of numbers and letters, making it difficult to understand what is truly about to happen.

When users engage in Blind Signing, they may unknowingly authorize a range of actions, from sending funds to unintended recipients to executing complex smart contracts with potentially harmful consequences. This lack of clarity and verification opens up a myriad of risks.

Put simply, users who blindly approve transactions may send funds to incorrect or malicious addresses. This often results from cleverly disguised phishing attacks that deceive users into authorizing fraudulent transactions.

Many in the digital asset community don’t realize they’ve been executing such transactions. Recognizing and understanding these dangers is the first step towards safeguarding your assets and making more informed decisions. 

Ledger’s Clear Signing initiative aims to eliminate these risks by ensuring that ‘what you see is what you sign’. This approach enhances the security and trustworthiness of digital asset transactions and empowers users by ensuring they fully understand what they are approving. 

But what is Clear Signing? And how is Ledger approaching this initiative?

Ledger’s Clear Signing Initiative

Recognizing the critical need for improvement across the digital asset ecosystem, Ledger is proud to introduce the Clear Signing initiative. 

A typical transaction message (left) won’t show the full details of a transaction in human-readable language. With Clear Signing (right), you can review the transaction details with confidence.

To explain, Clear Signing is built on two fundamental principles:

  1. Clear Transaction Intent:
    When you initiate a transaction, your wallet will present you with the intent. Clear signing shows you the kind of approval being requested and which dApp is seeking it.
  1. Human-Readable Transaction Fields:
    Transaction fields outline which assets will be affected by the transaction. With clear signing, this information is presented in human-readable language that is easy to understand.

The Benefits of Clear Signing

These two principles work together to offer a few key benefits. Firstly, they improve your security, reducing the risk of signing malicious transactions. Next, they give you confidence. What you see is what you sign: meaning you won’t sign away your assets without knowing. Finally, these features also offer ease of use, making complex transactions accessible to newcomers and crypto natives alike.

With these pieces working together, clear signing is gearing up to make self-custody more accessible to everyone.

Clear Signing: Ledger’s Technical Implementation

To empower users with absolute clarity and control, Ledger has developed a straightforward and easy-to-deploy JSON format. This format is designed to integrate seamlessly with digital asset wallets and decentralized applications (dApps), transforming complex smart contract data into an intuitive, human-readable format.

By making the details of transactions clear and verifiable, we uphold our commitment to “what you see is what you sign.” This crucial shift not only mitigates the risk of accidental approvals of malicious transactions but also strengthens user confidence and system integrity. For a practical demonstration, refer to the right side of the image above to see how each transaction component is presented clearly and is easily verifiable.

The Journey Towards Clear Signing Adoption

Let’s dive into the history of Ledger’s Clear Signing initiative and how it will evolve in the future.

Initial Rollout and Development Webinar (Early 2024)

We began 2024 by widely communicating our Clear Signing standard to key stakeholders within the Ethereum ecosystem, including wallet providers and dApp developers. A comprehensive Clear Signing RFC Webinar [watch the replay here] was held to gather feedback and refine our approach based on the insights of developers and industry leaders.

Integration Tools and Public Repository Launch (Summer 2024)

In the summer of 2024, we are launching our first suite of Clear Signing tools, complete with libraries and APIs that facilitate the easy conversion of smart contract data into a human-readable format. Concurrently, these standards will be published in a public GitHub repository to encourage widespread adoption and adaptation.

Industry Collaboration and Community Engagement

Collaboration with industry leaders and blockchain developers is essential to overcoming resistance to new standards. By integrating their feedback, we continuously refine Clear Signing’s utility and encourage widespread adoption. We invite the digital asset community to engage with our GitHub repository, contributing to the collective effort to make digital transactions safer and more transparent.

Future Outlook

As more applications and wallets incorporate Clear Signing, we expect a significant reduction in the risks associated with Blind Signing. Our aim is to establish this standard as a cornerstone of secure and transparent digital transactions, ensuring a safer environment for all users.

What to Do Until Clear Signing Becomes Standard

As we work towards universal implementation of the Clear Signing standard, remaining vigilant to mitigate risks associated with Blind Signing is crucial. Here are essential steps to protect yourself in the interim:

Don’t Trust, Verify 

Always confirm that transaction requests come from known and trusted sources. Be wary of communications that don’t match the usual patterns or come from unexpected channels.

Use Reputable Platforms

Only conduct transactions through well-known and reputable platforms and wallets. These platforms are more likely to prioritize transparency and security, providing a safer environment for your digital transactions.

Seek Clarity

Always strive to understand the transaction details fully before authorizing them. If the transaction’s intent is unclear, ask questions or seek advice from trusted professionals or community forums.

Do Your Own Research

Regularly update yourself on the latest security practices and standards in the digital asset space. Follow trusted news sources, participate in community discussions, and attend educational events to keep abreast of new developments and threats.

By adopting these practices, you can better protect your assets and contribute to a culture of security and transparency within the digital asset community.

Clear Signing: The Path to a Safer Ecosystem

Ledger’s Clear Signing initiative marks a crucial advancement towards a safer and more transparent digital asset ecosystem. By mitigating the risks associated with Blind Signing, this initiative not only bolsters security but also empowers all participants in the space, providing them with the tools they need to navigate digital transactions safely.

We invite you to join us on this transformative journey as we continue to develop and implement these vital improvements. Discover more about the technology behind our Clear Signing initiative via Ledger’s Developer’s Portal here to see how it’s paving the way for innovation in digital asset management.

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