MetaMask and OpenSea Block Users

Users in specific areas are unable to access MetaMask, Infura, and OpenSea services and reports of this are still coming out as the restrictions involved more than Venezuela and Iran. Another big newsworthy headline is that ~ $50 million in crypto has been donated to the Ukrainian military so far.

It is strange to see such a contrast with individuals in various countries being restricted from using OpenSea, MetaMask, and Infura and then those in the Ukrainian military receive tens of millions in crypto donations. While the restrictions placed from the US and the ongoing sanctions is a centralization issue with Infura and OpenSea, this is not a centralization issue with Ethereum.

Remember the level of distribution there is on the nodes, governance and supply, Ethereum is decentralized.

What to Know

MetaMask is a browser extension wallet you use online that directly connects with Ethereum blockchain applications. MetaMask allows you to browse the web in the wallet giving you an easy method to connect with DeFi protocols and marketplaces. In a user friendly way, you can participate in staking of your crypto assets, swapping them, or purchasing things like NFTs.

OpenSea is a NFT Marketplace where crypto-collectibles are traded. It is a centralized peer-to-peer centralized marketplace where non-fungible tokens are bought and sold.

While the news of this is unpleasant it opens up the conversation calling for more decentralization options by many. A hard truth is that these services and applications are important and are helping scale crypto.

MetaMask and Infura have been key to the development and scaling of the Ethereum ecosystem and onboarding new users to crypto, as MetaMask is a primary “hot wallet” and OpenSea is still the largest NFT marketplace.

Centralization Problems

MetaMask runs off Infura, which is owned by ConsenSys, an important company which provides a lot of infrastructure for scaling crypto.

Infura is an infrastructure for Ethereum ecosystem applications, it’s how Metamask connects to the Ethereum blockchain.

Why is this important? Centralized options like these are not inherently bad, an important distinction to make in looking at the situation and why decentralization is going to continue to become more important as crypto adoption grows.

MetaMask

When the story first broke Infura had not yet acknowledged the restrictions, and still have yet to ackowledge any of the geographies effected by this decision to adhere to ongoing sanctions. Word spread and users began to learn more about the problems after it circulated online.

Infura’s following statements blamed a misconfiguration and said that it’s effects were “more broad than they needed to be”. They claimed it was their oversight then restored the problem soon after learning about it.

An important thing to remember is that users can still access their ETH and other ERC tokens via their private keys, that was not taken away from them. Your access to the Ethereum blockchain is not cut off.

However the vulnerability of Infura restricting geographies via their IP is still a big problem.

“Infura closely monitors changes to U.S. sanctions programs announced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and narrowly tailors its internal controls to comply with the law… By default, MetaMask accesses the blockchain via Infura, which is unavailable in certain jurisdictions due to legal compliance…When you attempt to use MetaMask in one of those regions users will receive an error message. Currently, those regions are Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and the Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.”

CoinDesk

These restrictions are coming after large sanctions being placed by the US caused Infura to follow along. Regulatory compliance and clarity is a large subject right now and users in the affected areas are currently subjected to them.

ConsenSys is a US based company that is responsible for complying with ongoing economic sanctions.

“As a centralized entity, funded by investors like JPMorgan, infrastructure providers like Infura are subject to regulatory concerns…This over-reliance on centralized service providers goes against everything that Web 3 stands for and is meant to be – and represents a central point of failure that shouldn’t exist in the first place.”

Josh Neuroth, CEO of Ankr.
(Ankr is a decentralized distributed node network that provides decentralized infrastructure.)

How to Avoid

Aside from running their own node which is not a simple task, users have a few easier options on navigating this problem.

Admittedly, they’re not so much “common knowledge” but you can direct the MetaMask wallet to a different node by adding a custom network RPC. Think of it like changing the settings for a connection, more on this explained below.

MetaMask

It’s not entirely difficult to do, add the new network into your Metamask through your profile. A list of RPCs can be found in the attached link as well as Chainlist. Both offer various networks allowing the user to navigate web3.

Another popular suggestion is utilizing a VPN to allow yourself to securely navigate online and maintain privacy. VPNs are always recommended for crypto because of privacy and security. The remote IP restrictions placed via Infura for MetaMask users could be avoided by using a reliable VPN.

You can still access your crypto via another wallet service, this is what is most important to remember here.

Best Steps Forward

While there is much uncertainty it is worth revisiting the best foot forward advice in crypto. If you are HODLing your crypto and still have it left on any CEX, take it off. Now.

Own a Hardware Wallet

This is simple. If you’re going to buy crypto you are going to use a hardware wallet and hold the keys to your coins. This makes you the sole owner. Do NOT hold and keep your coins/crypto assets on the exchanges. Under no circumstances do not deviate from this rule. Put them to use in DeFi or move them to “cold storage”.

Oct 1 (Reuters) – Hackers stole from the accounts of at least 6,000 customers of Coinbase Global Inc (COIN.O), according to a breach notification letter sent by the cryptocurrency exchange to affected customers.
The hack took place between March and May 20 of this year, according to a copy of the letter posted on the website of California’s Attorney General.

Action 1: You want to own a hardware wallet and “own the keys to your coins”. The first step is to purchase a Ledger or a Trezor wallet. For personal security reasons have these wallets placed in a secure location. Just like you would have anything sensitive or important located in secure spots.

Action 2: You are going to include the purchases of these crypto assets in your overall investment strategy. I would recommend purchasing BTC, ETH, and LINK on a regular basis (dollar cost averaging). Until you have a decent amount just focus on stacking these coins and storing them using your hardware wallet.

Action 3: You’re going to begin purchasing off Centralized Exchanges (CEXes), we’re playing the long game here so you can plan on using Decentralized Exchanges later.

Purchases from any exchange like Coinbase, Coinbase Pro, Binance, Kraken, OkCoin, and such are easy. By taking them off the exchange and put into cold storage you’ll begin to become more confident with your crypto. The first “threshold” is getting off zero, start by purchasing some BTC and ETH to start.

Personal Security

Make sure you are responsible and securing your crypto for the long term. This means that you are using good security practices. Good security requires a lot of forward thinking and technical awareness. Some people who are new to crypto aren’t tech savvy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t learn.

A) Do not under any circumstance share your seed phrase (recovery words) with anyone. Ideally you want use a metal plate/seed plate to record the phrase. Have backups for the phrase and your password recorded and stored in separate locations.

B) Have designated secure locations where you are storing your seed phrases and hardware wallets. (Don’t put all your eggs into one basket). These should be in locations that are accessible to you, and are hidden and secure. Safes and passcode for access is preferred.

C) Have multiple wallets to distribute your holdings across. Store these and the associated seed phrases in separate locations.

D) If you want to take extra precaution, ship *any* crypto related item to an address that is not your home or your work and use a discreet payment method (Ex: visa gift card purchased with cash).Note: This does not make you a “shadowy super coder”.

Summary

While the current circumstances of MetaMask, Infura and OpenSea and the centralization pain is still around, remember that it doesn’t leave crypto up to a centralized future. The infrastructure we have in place now is helping a lot of new users beome familair with crypto, and is helping with institutions getting involved.

Centralized products and services will remain vulnerable to these kinds of issues. The BlockFi issue is much of the same for the Bitcoiner maximalists as most of the ways to fully transact is through centralized services. This problem is not only an Ethereum network problem, but a crypto problem in general. The Strike App is not yet ready in most countries either.

Remember, the long term game as the move toward more decentralization becomes more prevalent.

Photo of author

Written By BowTied Scholar

Scholar helps people learn more about Crypto and CBDCs. Hope to see you on Degen Island!

Disclosure

This article may contain links to third-party websites or other content for information purposes. BowTiedIsland may receive a commission at no cost to you if you purchase a product after clicking one of these links. The Third-Party Sites are not under the control of BowTiedIsland, and BowTiedIsland is not responsible for the content of any Third-Party Site. All information contained herein is the opinion of the writer and does not constitute financial advice. We aim to act as a neutral third party and aid in your research and analysis.


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