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Geolocation-based seed word generator

Image credit: How2do

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 04, 2021
Using a sequence of GPS locations to generate/restore your seed words or passwords.

Cryptocurrencies are the future of money. 24-word seed phrases are a norm for securing pretty much any cryptocurrency wallet. Whoever gets their hands on the seed words, owns the underlying funds. Having a physical copy of the seed words is thus a weak point from the security aspect.

Why?

People can't reliably store 24 words in memory over long periods of time. In contrast, we can reliably remember a sequence of several places that mean something to us.

How it works

A smartphone's GPS is typically accurate to within 5 meters (16 feet). A map-to-seed app would divide the entire world into 10 x 10 meter squares. Regardless of where you stand within one of those 10x10 squares, it still counts as one data point. You could be off by 9 meters from your original location, and still be within the same data point.

A seed word generator would take a minimum of 3 such geolocation data points as input to generate your seed words.

To restore your seed words you would either visit your geolocation points, stand on each for a few minutes for your phone's GPS to recalibrate and copy the coordinates. You would then enter the sequence of coordinates into the map-to-seed app and get your seed words.

If your locations are scattered around the world, you could look them up on google maps and copy the coordinates.

Alternatively, if this catches on, the crypto wallets could incorporate the geolocation-based seed words and thereby remove a step from the process.
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Creative contributions

Such small squares would be complicated to remember

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Povilas S
Povilas S Oct 05, 2021
The main disadvantage of this that I see is such small geo-squares being hard to remember. 10x10 meters is a small size. To remember those by hard without writing any coordinates/pointers down or saving related information in a digital form would be too hard. It's easy to remember a huge location like a city or a whole neighborhood or some famous object like a cathedral. A combination of those might work, but then the system would become too simple security-wise. To remember some 10x10 square something memorable has to be inside it.

What can fit into a 10x10 square - a tree maybe, or some sculpture, but if another tree is standing nearby you might confuse those easily after not visiting that spot for a while. Landscapes tend to change, especially in bigger cities. Imagine some café, bar or shop was in your square, that's easy to remember, but in a big city that establishment might close and another one might get opened, the building might get restored or even demolished, etc.

Also, in big cities, there would be many flats over the same square because of tall, multi-floored buildings. This might become an issue for such a system if a few people often chose the same square because of some familiar flat or office being over it. Even if your square is in the middle of the field with some lonesome tree inside it the tree might not be there after some time, how will you recognize it then? The only way to secure this will be knowing the coordinates of the square, so memorizing words will turn into memorizing numbers.

Also, even if the same place happened to not change for a long time (some particular public bench or whatever), the places that you consider important, memorable could be guessed from your online activity rather easily with the help of a specialized algorithm – if you happen to like the place you’d visit it/pass by more often, mention something related in chats, etc. Alternatively, you could try to discover “pass-places” on google earth, but this is again not a hacking-proof option.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni11 days ago
A 10x10 square meter area is pretty big. Most urban tree barks take up to 1x1 square meter. Just to give you an idea, 600 standing people can fit in a 10x10 (that is 100 square meter) area (https://www.gkstill.com/Support/crowd-density/100sm/Density1.html). So that would not be an issue. However, the problems of ever-changing landscapes and memorizing the locations will persist. Also, most importantly, people might be able to track the places you visit frequently and crack your code.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic11 days ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni people don't necessarily frequently visit the places that have a meaning for them. For example birth and death places of relatives, where they met their partner, where they first went to school, kindergarten, places of their favorite memories, best food, etc.

10 x 10 meters account for different GPS accuracy of phones. The world is still big enough:)
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni11 days ago
Darko Savic Wouldn't that make them forget the locations?

Clues to location names that don't change in time

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Povilas S
Povilas S Oct 08, 2021
Writing down clues to represent locations memorable to you might work. The difference from the current system would be that you'd use the written down clues instead of written down seed words, this adds another layer of security because you'd code the name of the location in a clue while if someone found the note with your seed words they would know all of them instantly. But perhaps there should be more locations, therefore more clues than just three, this would increase the security of such system. Ten locations might do.

You'd probably have to use a map app to find the locations because going to all the different places physically each time would be impractical. Marking some childhood location accurately enough on a map many years after might be complicated. Firstly because things look different on a map than in reality and secondly because landscapes change.

The first part might work, but the second is complicated and perhaps even unnecessary. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better just to code words as clues instead of finding a location. You could still use locations to make it easy to remember, but instead of using 10X10 meter squares or something similar, you'd simply use the name of the city, the name of the river/lake, a nearby village, etc. Basically, this would be similar to a security questions-based system. Those are sometimes used online to confirm the identity of the user.

The word would have to be some title that you'd remember even many years after, it can't be "near the old oak tree", because that combination of words you'll forget, it has to be a title that is unlikely to change on the map, so names of the cities, rivers, lakes, forests are very unlikely to change through decades and even centuries. You could easily mark those places as objects on any accurate map. That way you wouldn't even need to remember the exact title.

Make a pattern using a route

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 09, 2021
I like the idea of using geo-location. However, it involves two things that may be cumbersome - 1. Remembering the places. 2. Actually going to the place to generate the password.

Instead, you could set a pattern and then travel on the road and recreate that pattern to generate the password. This alternative also involves traveling but you could do it wherever you are and not only in specific locations on the planet. For example, if your patterns are -
  1. A triangle
  2. A rectangle
  3. An "s"
  4. A "9"
Or any other shape you can remember, here is how use could recreate them in the city. I have chosen Paris as an example.
You could set the start and stop points. While recreating it, you click "start recording" and then travel the pattern. In the end, you say "stop recording" and submit the password.

If you cannot find roads that you can use to recreate the password, you could find a ground or a park nearby and recreate it there. Also, your password could be more specific like travel 100 meters in one direction and then turn left and travel 50 meters. Then stop. Google maps can give you the distance traveled, making things easier.

Use the step calculator technology

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 09, 2021
This is way easier than creating patterns on the roads that I mentioned in my previous suggestion. The pattern could be, for example, 20 steps in one direction, turn left and then take 40 steps, turn around, and take 20 steps. You start recording before traveling and say stop when you are done. The step calculator technology is already out there in the form of fitness-tracking apps. We need to utilize it here, maybe make a few tweaks.

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General comments

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J
Juran12 days ago
Since a lot of apps use location information to adapt their contents to users, wouldn't it be very easy for a harmful algorithm to guess which are your seed words? We do not visit so many locations and whoever has the algorithm behind the seed-word generator can take our money.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic11 days ago
Juran you would select a sequence of locations that mean something to you. You visit more locations per day than there are words in the 24-seed word phrase. Not only would you have to check the right locations, you would also have to know the right sequence. The complexity quickly becomes astronomical