Vanity Address Explained
A cryptocurrency address is a string of alphanumerical characters that an individual can share with anyone wishing to send funds. A vanity address is a type of cryptocurrency address that contains a personalized human-readable message. A traditional bitcoin address may be displayed as the following: ‘3P4glGKlpKJrgvj4n7GBgnLNqBdjVgf3jx’. A bitcoin vanity address on the other hand, which is supposed to be personal, may be generated as: ‘3LoveBPzzD72PUXLzCkYAtGFYmK5Vynr33’. In this case, this vanity address is a valid bitcoin address that contains the word ‘Love’ as the first four Base-58 letters.
Producing a vanity pattern requires a user to generate and test millions of candidate private keys until a bitcoin address with the desired personalized pattern is discovered. An address on networks such as Bitcoin is effectively a representation of the public key. The address is derived from the public key by use of a one-way cryptographic hash function. In the case of Bitcoin, the hashing functions that are used to make a bitcoin address from the public key are: Secure Hash Algorithm 256 (SHA-256) and RACE Integrity Primitives Evaluation Message Digest 160 (RIPEMD-160). Starting with the public key, this is first used as an input for the SHA-256 hash function to produce the hash output. This hash is then run through the RIPEMD-160 hash function to produce a bitcoin address.
By way of information, with Bitcoin, the public key is derived from the private key using Elliptic Curve Cryptography. This type of cryptography allows for the creation of a one-way function, which is a function that is easy to compute in one direction, but difficult to do so in the opposite direction. In cryptocurrency networks such as Bitcoin, this one-way function takes the private key as an input to produce the public key, which forms the output. Individuals are able to distribute their public keys knowing that no one is able to reverse the one-way function and calculate the private key from the public key.
The process of generating a vanity pattern essentially involves selecting a private key at random, deriving the public key, deriving the bitcoin address, and then checking to see if the bitcoin address matches the desired vanity pattern. If not, this process is repeated millions of times until the desired pattern is found. The private keys controlling a vanity address can be used by the owner in exactly the same way as any other address. You can no more easily discover the private keys of a vanity address than you can with any other address.
Generating a Vanity Address
The difficulty of generating a desired vanity pattern depends on its structure i.e. the leading letters and numbers contained within the address. Each additional character in a vanity address increases the difficulty of finding a desired pattern. Vanity addresses that possess a longer pattern are usually found by specialized hardware, such as custom-built desktops with multiple graphics processing units (GPUs). This is because vanity searches on GPU systems are significantly faster than on general purpose central processing units (CPUs).
The safest method in generating a vanity pattern is to calculate it yourself. Although for lengthier vanity patterns, one might not have the resources to do this. In this case, another way of generating a desired vanity pattern is to outsource the work to a pool of vanity miners, also known as a vanity pool. This service allows users to outsource their vanity address generation needs to third party miners without having to fear a compromise in their security.
Those with GPU hardware can become vanity miners and earn a small fee in exchange for searching for desired vanity patterns. One such example of a service that pools miner resources to find desired vanity patterns is: Vanity Pool. Generating a vanity pattern truly is a brute-force exercise that involves: trying a random key, checking the resulting address to see if a desired pattern has been found, and repeating until one successfully finds a desired vanity pattern. It is important to note that the safest way to outsource the generation of a vanity address is by using split-key address generation.
Vanity Address Security
Vanity addresses can be useful for enhancing security measures in that a distinctive address makes it difficult for a malicious actor to substitute their own address and fool individuals into paying them instead of you. However, vanity addresses can also result in security vulnerabilities. Vanity addresses can make it possible for anyone to create an address that resembles another vanity address, thereby making it possible to fool individuals into sending money to a malicious actor instead of you.