September Progress Update: Introducing the Anchor Authenticator

Greymass
5 min readSep 15, 2022

Hello, and welcome to Greymass’ monthly progress update! Grab the cozy beverage of your choice and settle in, because fall is just around the corner… (yeah, we don’t know how it happened either). This month we have a mix of live product updates and behind-the-scenes info about exciting projects that won’t be released for a while yet. So let’s dive in!

Anchor Updates: A New Desktop App & Two Android Versions

For Desktop: Introducing the Anchor Authenticator

When you read the words “Anchor Authenticator,” what do you think of? It could be a sea creature that goes around authenticating anchors when they drop into the ocean (“Yep, this is a bona fide anchor, Fred. No fish will be able to nibble on this one.”) or it could be the work-in-progress name for a new desktop-based application that we started developing recently.

Ok, fine, it’s the latter. But if anyone finds a sea creature that talks about anchors, please send them our way. We’d love to give them a job. 😉

The Anchor Authenticator will be similar to our mobile Android and iOS Anchor apps, in that it will be a purpose-built app to house your private keys and sign transactions in the most secure way possible. Now we know you may be thinking, “Doesn’t the Anchor Desktop app already do that?”

It does. But since Anchor Desktop also allows you to do so many other things too, it’s actually a very difficult product to develop and update securely — because if we want to add new features, our developers always need to keep in mind the very real risk that an update to one feature could accidentally break dozens of other related systems.

Secure Authentication Requires Simplicity

If you use apps for Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) like Google Authenticator or Authy, or apps for single-sign on (SSO) like Okta or OneLogin, you’ll notice that their features are very minimal, to prevent any security slip-ups that could happen in development. So they let you sign in to things… and that’s about it.

We took a similarly minimalist approach to the Android and iOS versions of Anchor, because using your private keys to sign transactions and log into dApps is very similar to how 2FA and SSO function. Our mobile apps prioritize the safety of your private keys and ease of use when signing transactions/logging into dApps above all else.

The original version of Anchor Desktop, on the other hand, evolved out of a need for many basic tools when EOS first launched. People needed a place to hold their private keys, but they also needed a place to vote (shout-out to people who remember when Anchor was eos-voter!), a place to manage their resources, and a place to perform basic transactions.

Now, as the Antelope ecosystem evolves, the Anchor Authenticator is being designed with the needs of a more mature blockchain in mind. It will be a desktop app that’s purpose-built to store keys and make logging into dApps remarkably simple, just like the mobile versions of Anchor currently do.

Users will be able to use the Anchor Authenticator in tandem with the current version of Anchor Desktop if they so choose, or they can use it independently to make surfing Web3 a seamless experience on their computer — without having to reach for their phone to sign or verify anything.

Turning the Anchor Authenticator into Reality

For now, our developers recently took the first steps in creating the Anchor Authenticator by implementing the EOSIO Signing Request protocol, so it’s able to sign transactions from external apps using a demo account. They’re also working on developing a key storage mechanism that will include a password-based encryption layer and the ability to add or remove keys from the application.

The codebase for the Anchor Authenticator is being rewritten from scratch using much more modern code than the original Anchor Desktop app, effectively taking everything we’ve learned over the past four years and reimagining it.

We hope that people will look forward to the Anchor Authenticator!

For Android: Two Recent Updates

Since our last progress report in August, Anchor Android has gotten a recent update (version 0.42) has the following improvements:

  • The app can now handle keys with invalid checksums.
  • We added a Play Store version to support email attachments.
  • Clearer error messages will be provided for unrecognized URIs.
  • Minor bug fixes.

Building off of that, version 0.43 will be available early next week, with even more quality-of-life upgrades:

  • There is improved support for small devices.
  • The option to disable forced scrolling before transactions can be confirmed.
  • Users can choose to invalidate enclave private keys every time a new biometric enrollment happens.
  • Minor bug fixes.

We encourage users who are running into the issues addressed here to update their app to the latest version.

Support Improvements: Voting and Staking

For users who would like to get involved in governance on Antelope chains but aren’t sure how to take the leap, then our latest support guides on our Support Portal are specifically for you. This month, we have two new guides: how to stake resources and vote using the Anchor Desktop app.

At Greymass, we’re passionate about encouraging everyone to vote! It benefits everyone, because a blockchain that has an active community of users, developers, apps, etc. is more likely to gain new users and drive up demand for its token. So voting for block producers who you trust to provide value is one of the best ways you can increase the likelihood that you’ll make money from your token investments in the future.

QUICK TIP: If you have trouble voting, or if you have any issues with Anchor in general, you can always reach out to us by emailing support@greymass.com or by filling out a ticket on the Support Portal. Just make sure to clearly explain the issue that you’re having in the email or support ticket form, so that we can help you as quickly as possible!

Coming Soon: News on SDKs and the Leap Upgrade

We have two final pieces of news for you. First of all, Greymass has officially signed a contract with the Antelope Coalition to provide new software development kits (SDKs) to help developers build web apps within the ecosystem. We first mentioned that we were submitting a proposal for this project in our July Progress Update, and we’re happy to announce that it’s been accepted. So you can start looking forward to updates on our progress building these SDKs soon.

And finally, we’re all looking forward to the Leap Upgrade! Greymass has completed updates to our own APIs and SDKs to help all developers take advantage of the new features in the upgrade, and we’ll also be releasing a dedicated podcast episode and blog post about the upgrade in the coming days.

And that’s all we have for now. If you have any requests for ways we can improve Anchor or Unicove, you can find us in Discord or at hello@greymass.com. See you in October, folks!

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Greymass

An organization built to facilitate the growth of distributed ledger technologies and the infrastructure powering them.