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Proxy Accounts

Polkadot provides a module that allows users to set proxy accounts to perform a limited number of actions on their behalf. Much like the Stash and Controller account relationship in staking, proxies allow users to keep one account in cold storage and actively participate in the network with the weight of the tokens in that account.

Check out our Polkadot YouTube video that explains what proxy accounts are:

Proxy Accounts

Proxy Typesโ€‹

You can set a proxy account via the Proxy module. When you set a proxy, you must choose a type of proxy for the relationship. Polkadot offers:

  • Any
  • Non-transfer
  • Governance
  • Staking
  • Identity Judgement
  • Auction

When a proxy account makes a proxy transaction, Polkadot filters the desired transaction to ensure that the proxy account has the appropriate permission to make that transaction on behalf of the cold account.

Any Proxiesโ€‹

As implied by the name, a proxy type of Any allows the proxy account to make any transaction, including balance transfers. In most cases, this should be avoided as the proxy account is used more frequently than the cold account and is therefore less secure.

Non-transfer Proxiesโ€‹

Proxies that are of the type Non-transfer are accounts that allow any type of transaction except balance transfers (including vested transfers).

Governance Proxiesโ€‹

The Governance type will allow proxies to make transactions related to governance (i.e., from the Democracy, Council, Treasury, Technical Committee, and Elections pallets).

Explainers on governance proxies

See Governance for more information on governance proxies or watch our technical explainer video that explores this concept.

Staking Proxiesโ€‹

The Staking type allows staking-related transactions, but do not confuse a staking proxy with the controller account. Within the staking pallet, some transactions must come from the stash account, while others must come from the controller account. The stash account is meant to stay in cold storage, while the controller account makes day-to-day transactions like setting session keys or deciding which validators to nominate. The stash account still needs to make some transactions such as bonding extra funds or designating a new controller account. A proxy doesn't change the roles of stash and controller accounts, but does allow the stash to be accessed even less frequently than using a controller account.

Identity Judgement Proxiesโ€‹

The Identity Judgement proxies are in charge of allowing registrars to make judgement on an account's identity. If you are unfamiliar with judgements and identities on chain, please refer to this page.

Cancel Proxiesโ€‹

Proxies that are of the type Cancel allow accounts to reject and remove any time-delay proxy announcements.

Auction Proxiesโ€‹

Proxies that are of the type Auction are accounts that allow transactions pertaining to parachain auctions and crowdloans. The Auction proxy account can sign those transactions on behalf of an account in cold storage. If you already setup a Non-transfer proxy account, it can do everything an Auction proxy can do. Before participating in a crowdloan using an Auction proxy, it is recommended that you check with the respective parachain team for any possible issues pertaining to the crowdloan rewards distribution.

Anonymous Proxiesโ€‹

Polkadot includes a function to create an Anonymous proxy. Such type of proxy is the only way of accessing a designated primary account. That is, it generates an address but no corresponding private key. Normally, a primary account designates a proxy account, but anonymous proxies are the opposite. The account that creates the proxy relationship is the proxy account and the new account is the primary.

Use extreme care with anonymous proxies. Once you remove the proxy relationship, the

primary account will be inaccessible.

anonymous proxy

Explainer video on anonymous proxies

Learn more about anonymous proxies from our technical explainer video.

Time-delayed Proxiesโ€‹

We can add an additional layer of security to proxies by giving them a delay time. The delay will be quantified in number of blocks. Polkadot has 6 seconds of block-time. A delay value of 10 will mean 10 blocks, which equals to 1 minute of delay. The proxy will announce it's intended action and wait for the number of blocks defined in the delay time before executing it. The proxy will include the hash of the intended function call in the announcement. Within this time window, the intended action may be cancelled by accounts that control the proxy. Now we can use proxies knowing that any malicious actions can be noticed and reverted within a delay period.

The Polkadot-JS UI cannot handle complicated proxy setups

The Polkadot-JS UI cannot handle complicated proxy setups (e.g. a proxy -> multisig -> an anonymous proxy which is part of another multisig). These complex setups must be done using the extrinsics tab directly.

These complex proxy setups should only be performed if you are comfortable enough interacting directly with the chain, as you will be unable to sign extrinsics using the UI.

Why use a Proxy?โ€‹

Proxies are great to use for specific purposes because they add in a layer of security. Rather than using funds in one sole account, smaller accounts with unique roles complete tasks for the main stash account. This drives attention away from the main account and to proxies.

Anonymous proxies, in particular, can be used for permissionless management. In this example below, there is a multisig with four different accounts inside. Two of the accounts, Alice and Bob, have an anonymous proxy attached to them. In the case that the multisig account wanted to add or remove Alice or Bob or even add in a new account into the anonymous proxy, the anonymous proxy would take care of that change. If a multisig wanted to modify itself without an anonymous proxy, a whole new multisig would be created.

anonymous multisig proxy

How to set up a Proxyโ€‹

Using the Polkadot-JS UIโ€‹

Removing Proxiesโ€‹

Under the accounts tab in the Polkadot-JS UI there is blue button next to the account that has proxies. Hovering on the blue button lets you click on a link that says "proxy overview", which displays a pop-up window like the one shown below. In this pop-up window, you have an option to clear individual proxy accounts or all of them. Under the hood, the UI is calling the extrinsics removeProxy for individual accounts and removeProxies for clearing all of the proxy accounts.

Remove Proxies

The procedure for removing an Anonymous Proxy is different and there are a few functions on the extrinsic page that will help do this.

There is no way to get access to the primary account after deleting the anonymous proxy

removeProxy or removeProxies do not work for anonymous proxies. You must use the killAnonymous function which must be called from the anonymous proxy. This means that the anonymous proxy must be added as an account to the Polkadot-JS UI.

The following steps can be used to remove your anonymous proxy:

  • Step 0: You need to know the following information:

    • the account you created the anonymous proxy from
    • type of proxy, index (almost always 0)
    • block height it was created at
    • the extrinsic index in the block (on most block explorers, you will see the extrinsic ID listed as something along the lines of "9000-2" -> 9000 is the block height (block number) and 2 is the extrinsic index. You can find this information by looking up your account in a block explorer.

    anon proxy info

  • Step 1: Go to https://polkadot.js.org/apps/#/accounts (make sure you are on correct network).

  • Step 2: Click Proxied and add your address, name it ANON PROXY. You should now see this address in accounts. Now you need to call killAnonymous from the anonymous proxy. It is important to note that anonymous proxies work backwards; the original account acts as the proxy.

    add proxy to delete

  • Step 3: Go to https://polkadot.js.org/apps/#/extrinsics

  • Step 4: Call extrinsic proxy.killAnonymous using the selected account ANON PROXY and the following parameters:

    • Spawner: (original account)
    • Proxy type (kind of proxy)
    • Index 0 (almost always, but can be seen in creating extrinsic)
    • Block number x
    • Extrinsic index y

    call extrinsic

  • Step 5: Submit and sign extrinsic

    sign extrinsic

How to view your Proxiesโ€‹

To view your proxy, head over to the Chain State (underneath "Developer") page on Polkadot-JS Apps. If you've created your proxy on a Kusama account, it is required to change your network accordingly using the top left navigation button. On this page, the proxy pallet should be selected, returning the announcements and proxies functions. The proxies function will allow you to see your created proxies for either one account or for all accounts (using the toggle will enable this). Proxy announcements are what time lock proxies do to announce they are going to conduct an action.

view proxies

Putting It All Togetherโ€‹

If the idea of proxy types and their application seems abstract, it is. Here is an example of how you might use these accounts. Imagine you have one account as your primary token-holding account, and don't want to access it very often, but you do want to participate in governance and staking. You could set Governance and Staking proxies.

proxies

In this example, the primary account A would only make two transactions to set account B as its governance proxy and account C as its staking proxy. Now, account B could participate in governance activity on behalf of A.

Likewise, account C could perform actions typically associated with a stash account, like bonding funds and setting a Controller, in this case account D. Actions that normally require the Stash, like bonding extra tokens or setting a new Controller, can all be handled by its proxy account C. In the case that account C is compromised, it doesn't have access to transfer-related transactions, so the primary account could just set a new proxy to replace it.

By creating multiple accounts that act for a single account, it lets you come up with more granular security practices around how you protect private keys while still being able to actively participate in a network.

Proxy Depositsโ€‹

Proxies require deposits in the native currency (i.e. DOT or KSM) in order to be created. The deposit is required because adding a proxy requires some storage space on-chain, which must be replicated across every peer in the network. Due to the costly nature of this, these functions could open up the network to a Denial-of-Service attack. In order to defend against this attack, proxies require a deposit to be reserved while the storage space is consumed over the life time of the proxy. When the proxy is removed, so is the storage space, and therefore the deposit is returned.

The deposits are calculated in the runtime, and the function can be found in the runtime code. For example, the deposits are calculated in Polkadot with the following functions:

// One storage item; key size 32, value size 8.
pub const ProxyDepositBase: Balance = deposit(1, 8);
// Additional storage item size of 33 bytes.
pub const ProxyDepositFactor: Balance = deposit(0, 33);

The ProxyDepositBase is the required amount to be reserved for an account to have a proxy list (creates one new item in storage). For every proxy the account has, an additional amount defined by the ProxyDepositFactor is reserved as well (appends 33 bytes to storage location).

The ProxyDepositBase is and the ProxyDepositFactor is .

The required deposit amount for one proxy is equal to:

+ * num_proxies

Resourcesโ€‹

Proxy pallet documentation