• This opinion editorial discusses the likely problems that may arise when Nostr, a decentralized messaging protocol, increases in adoption.
• Core to the system is the use of user public/private key pairs – creating a binding between users and their identities, but also introducing all of the problems of key management that private key holders face.
• There is a proposal from developer fiatjaf for an authentication scheme to manage key rotation in Nostr.
This is an opinion editorial by Shinobi, a self-taught educator in the Bitcoin space and tech-oriented Bitcoin podcast host. Before reading this, it is suggested you read the prior article explaining what Nostr is and how it works at a high level.
Issues with Key Management
User public/private key pairs are integral to how Nostr works as a protocol. These keys create a tight binding between actual users and how they are identified by others, preventing any relay server from unbinding those two things i.e., giving someone’s identifier to another user. However, this creates all of the problems of key management that someone possessing a private key runs into; if keys are lost or compromised, users have no one to go to for assistance – just like with Bitcoin – making it difficult to verify new keys in such circumstances.
Proposed Authentication Scheme
Developer fiatjaf has proposed an authentication scheme to manage key rotation in Nostr which would involve rotating one’s identity without compromising security guarantees and without relying on centralized platforms or trusted attestations from other people who might not be sufficiently known to them. The scheme will involve proving events came from specific users (identity keys) so that all guarantees remain intact even after keys have been rotated.
As more people adopt Nostr as their platform for communication between people, it becomes increasingly important to address potential issues with managing keys effectively while still maintaining secure identity control over users’ own identities. The proposed authentication scheme provides one solution towards achieving this goal and could prove invaluable as the platform grows in usage over time.
Nostr needs an actual cryptographic scheme tying the rotation of one keypair to another that can maintain security guarantees even after keys have been changed or compromised – developer fiatjaf’s proposed authentication scheme provides one possible solution towards achieving this goal and could prove invaluable as usage increases over time.