Preparing withdrawals for compromised validator or withdrawal keys. FAO Zilm

Dear Zilm & ETH Devs,

Apologies in advance if my post is deemed inappropriate for the purpose of my post is to help find a solution for all ETH 2 nodes which may have had their validator or withdrawal keys breached.

It is pointless getting into the details of how it happened to me, what I think is important is trying to find a solution. I will make this attempt to share my thoughts in a manner which hopefully doesn’t get me immediately banned.

The purpose of a system breach may not only be for financial purposes it may be to undermine the network and the Ethereum Foundation, so being extra prudent for when withdrawals are enabled is what I would like to discuss.

For a large number of nodes there will be two operators, the host (server side) who holds the validator key and the Staker (client side) who holds the withdrawal key. Below I will write a list of steps which would mean the two parties would need to work together to authorise each other to request a withdrawal, thus making it much harder for a hacker/bad-actor to use a compromised withdrawal key.

Note: This proposal is a little labor intensive and may not be for everyone, it could be optional but for extra security and peace of mind it could be worth the effort and may be worth the client paying the host a fee for example $50-$100 for each withdrawal.

  1. Maybe not popular, but with such large sums of money involved Host’s should use KYC type security protocols.
  2. Not everyone will want to withdraw funds when we reach phase 1.5 so could there be an option to “lock/unlock” the node withdrawal service, by default all nodes should be set to “locked” this way withdrawals will be impossible until the Staker chooses he/she/they is ready for a withdrawal.
  3. Similar to a 3 way handshake a withdrawal could have multiple steps to protect the misuse of a key using the (server side) node key and the (client side) withdrawal key/request.
  4. After a users ID has been fully verified by the host the Staker makes a request to the host for a withdrawal/skim.
  5. Using the node validator Key the host (server side) would need to send a request to the network for a withdrawal/skim.
  6. Each (server side) withdrawal request will trigger a unique forthcoming Epoch or Slot number to be sent to the node/host, for the purpose of this discussion we can think of an Epoch or Slot number as a type of PIN number similar to that used with a credit card (CC).
  7. The PIN number could be sent to the client after full ID verification has taken place, the PIN could be sent using email, SMS, phone call or maybe even sent in the post similar to a CC PIN number?
  8. The client now has their withdrawal key and a PIN, by rights the hacker only has the withdrawal key (we hope) rendering it useless without the PIN.
  9. This PIN must be unique for each withdrawal request and can only be used once.
  10. The client starts the withdrawal request using the PIN, withdrawal key, amount to withdraw and a wallet address to send the funds.
  11. The withdrawal request will trigger an unlock request with the host (server side) and the host can confirm the withdrawal request was made by the client before unlocking the node.
  12. Client verifies the wallet withdrawal address and confirms the withdrawal request was initiated by the client and the node is unlocked by the host.
  13. The client will have only one chance with each request, should the PIN be input incorrectly the node would stay locked the host informed of a failed withdrawal request and if it was the client who made a mistake the withdrawal process would have to be started again. This with luck should make it very hard for a validator or withdrawal Key to be misused.
  14. Client waits for Epoch or Slot number to be processed and with luck at this point in time a successful withdrawal/skim has taken place.
  15. Node goes back to default state of being “locked”.

It may seem laborious but by the time we get to phase 1.5 each node could have a value well in excess of $250,000 so in my view it is worth making the withdrawal process as secure as possible, which in effect renders the key useless without a PIN.

Of course this is just a rough idea and I am by no means an expert in blockchain, however I hope there are some steps that could be helpful to anyone like myself who sadly had an ETH 2 withdrawal key breached, a similar process could also be used for withdrawal key rotation, should a Staker wish to change the withdrawal key!

Thanks kindly for reading my post, I am ever so grateful for all your efforts and time.


I definitely don’t understand why loss of withdrawal key should be considered as the usual case. It’s not used during validator duties, so it’s cold-stored. It’s absolutely the same case when you lose the private key of your Mainnet account. The other question is: in the PoW network we could make multi-sig wallets etc, so, could we provide the same level of security for validator withdrawals? Yes, you will be able withdraw to any predefined Mainnet address (see PR#2149), so the receiver could be a contract with any security considerations implemented.

“I definitely don’t understand why loss of withdrawal key should be considered as the usual case.”

Hi Zilm, thanks kindly for your reply, sorry to have posted here I was trying to find a way to contact you.

I completely understand what you are saying about considering the loss of the key a usual case, I am just desperate to find a solution for myself and others who sadly have had their private keys compromised.

If what I suggested above is not plausible, would it be possible to lock the node and only allow withdrawals to be made only from the server itself thereby refusing any external connection to make the withdrawal? I would happily trust the host to make the withdrawal and then transfer the funds back to me so I could reinvest into a new validator node, I do not wish to withdraw the funds but sadly am in a daunting situation.

I am sick to my stomach at the thought a thief is waiting for withdrawals to be activated and am desperate to find a solution, my wallet key was compromised at the same time as the withdrawal key :frowning:

I don’t know what the number of compromised keys is, but I know for sure it is not just me, and I think it would be devastating if our funds were stolen.

Is there a chance I could talk to you privately for a few minutes? I would pay for your time if needed, I just want to find a solution so I can put my mind at rest, the investment of the nodes was meant as an investment for my daughter, so I am terrified of the worst case scenario.

Thanks kindly for your time.


If ever made (though it’s really difficult to make something like this), it would play against thousands of users who are going to participate in shared pools and other forms of validator/investor separation, which should be at first place for wide adoption, less centralization and less number of big whales.

I would recommend you to join #withdrawal-methods channel in Eth R&D Discord for further discussions.

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Hi Zilm, Thats the best news I have heard for a while, it means there is hope, I would happily pay towards this development, it could be optional so if needed the lock could be enabled, if 100 people needed this and were prepared to pay 10k each towards this, we could raise $1m towards this mod?

I will go to #withdrawal-methods and with luck discuss this more, I will also talk to my host who may also be very interested in this who may me able to talk further with their contacts.

Thanks for giving me hope Zilm, sending you good vibes, peace & love xx