- Randstorm Vulnerability affects millions of cryptocurrency wallets created from 2011 to 2015.
- Unciphered disclosed it on November 14th, 2023.
- Flaw found in the random number generation process of BitcoinJS software.
A new cybersecurity vulnerability dubbed “Randstorm” may affect millions of cryptocurrency wallets created from 2011 to 2015, putting billions in digital assets at potential risk, according to blockchain security experts.
On November 14th, cybersecurity firm Unciphered publicly disclosed information about Randstorm, a vulnerability impacting crypto wallets generated through web browsers during the early years of Bitcoin and blockchain technology.
Unciphered discovered the issue while working to recover a legacy Bitcoin wallet for a client. They uncovered a flaw in the random number generation process used by the popular BitcoinJS software library and wallets derived from it.
Poor random number generation would make the private keys for these wallets much easier to crack by bad actors, according to the researchers.
Unciphered believes wallets created by BitcoinJS or related code could number in the millions, with over $2 billion worth of cryptocurrency potentially impacted. Besides Bitcoin, other blockchains like Dogecoin, Litecoin, and Zcash may also be affected.
Millions of wallet owners already notified
Shortly after going public, Unciphered stated that millions of wallet owners had already been notified of the Randstorm vulnerability through email alerts. However, many early crypto users may no longer have access to the emails associated with their legacy wallets.
For those who generated wallets using a web browser before 2016, Unciphered strongly recommends transferring funds to newer wallets created with updated software. The vulnerability impacts wallets unequally but is exploitable in many cases, according to the cybersecurity team.
To avoid empowering hackers, Unciphered declined to provide technical details about successfully exploiting Randstorm. The anonymous team reported the flaw through proper disclosure channels before releasing their public advisory.
At the time, generating secure random numbers inside web browsers was extremely challenging. The BitcoinJS approach relied on weak entropy sources according to modern standards.
Hundreds of other wallet generators copied BitcoinJS’s methodology, propagating the vulnerability into millions of crypto wallets. Hardware wallet company Trezor estimates the BitcoinJS flaw impacted 0.2% of its users.
Unciphered speculates that exploits of the browser-based vulnerability may be behind some unresolved major crypto thefts. However, successfully hacking wallets requires guessing or narrowing down private keys.
Randstorm sent ripples through the crypto industry following Unciphered’s announcement. BitcoinJS is no longer maintained, but developers for BitPay, Coinbase Wallet, and other major projects have pledged to update their code to address the vulnerability.
Hardware wallet makers Ledger and Trezor claim their users are already protected against the flaw. But both reminded customers to use wallets generated on their devices, not old browser-based ones.
While concerning, Randstorm does not rise to the severity of past crypto vulnerabilities like Heartbleed, which allowed actually extracting private keys from memory. Still, the scope of potentially affected wallets makes it a significant danger to the digital asset ecosystem.
Randstorm demonstrates the lingering risks from crypto’s early experimental days as the industry matures. Meanwhile, the anonymous disclosure and responsible reporting from Unciphered represent an ethical approach to security research.
The full impact of Randstorm remains unclear for now. But following best practices like upgrading wallets, enabling two-factor authentication, and utilizing hardware wallets should help mitigate any fallout.
As blockchain security continues to advance, expect more ghosts of crypto’s past to resurface with new lessons for users and developers. The rapid pace of innovation in space often made security an afterthought during the early years. Randstorm is a prime example of a technical debt coming due.