In our ongoing series of wallet reviews, our next pick is the Ledger Nano S.
Ledger Nano S was created by a French company named Ledger, which is a security solutions provider for blockchain-centric industries.
The device enjoys fair popularity among bitcoin users because it offers an ideal blend of low price and revved up security features.
Ledger Nano S is the third product in the Ledger series, and the two before it are Ledger Nano and Ledger HW.
The Ledger Blue, which came out in late 2016, is the most ambitious hardware wallet yet, perhaps the equivalent of the iPhone to bitcoiners. It features a large touch screen, a Bluetooth device, and a rechargeable battery.
But getting back to the Ledger Nano S, why do we assign so much value to the gadget?
Because it determines whether your bitcoins stay safe or are lost to the hackers.
By holding your private keys offline and also giving you a chance to sign outbound transactions, which in other scenarios would be an automated function of the wallet.
In late 2016, Bitfinex, a cryptocurrency exchange, lost $65M worth of digital assets to North Korean hackers!
The most plausible explanation was that the hackers somehow got access into Bitfinex’s hot wallet, and transferred the altcoins to their addresses.
This case, and many other similar cases brings out cold storage as the only alternative that bitcoiners have to defend their digital wealth against thieves.
The Ledger Nano S
It is a cold storage gadget that generates private keys and that has multi-currency support and blockchain-centric apps.
It retails for €58
The packaging of the Ledger, just like KeepKey, scores a high rating. When you open the box you realize that a lot of “using the mind” went into the packaging.
First of all, you must check to see that the anti-tampering seal that holds the box intact is not broken; else, your device may have been compromised, in which case you must contact the company.
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- The ledger
- USB cable
- Key ring
- Recovery sheet
Like Trezor, the Ledger Nano S is a small gadget too that you would close inside your palm really.
The body itself is made of plastic and looks like it would stand some high degree of “roughing around”, and also it is shielded by a 360° stainless steel casing. Unless you’re a really “rough” person, you should not worry about your device developing cracks.
The ledger Nano S is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. Your PC must have Google chrome, and it must have a USB port for connecting the device via USB.
When it comes to how the Ledger Nano S “rides your computer” there is no major disparity between it and other hardware wallets.
Setting it up will take only a short moment of your life, well, unless you are a really backward person (of which I’m certain there’d be none like that reading this). Most people using the internet now are consuming their daily fix of milf porn, but you came here wanting to know more about bitcoins, and for that reason, you’re the realest in the game.
The Ledger Nano S is a far superior gadget than its predecessors because it features an OLED screen, which is extremely important, as you will soon find out.
When you connect the Ledger to your computer, it will power up and display a trademark welcome. The device will first require that you create a 4-digit PIN.
Next, the device will generate a 24-word seed, which you must write down on the recovery sheet provided, but ledger faces criticism for its lack of a passphrase; which requires that you add custom text to the 24-word recovery seed.
The recovery seed will come into use in the event that you lose your Ledger, and it will allow you to rebuild another wallet on a new device, so you may recover your digital assets.
In order to make certain that you have written down the correct phrase, the device will ask you to fill in two random words and verify whether they match against the phrase.
If you answer fittingly, you’ve finished the setup and can go on to configure the wallet by installing an app from chrome store.
This app will lend an interface to your wallet and will provide functionalities such as:
- Account details
- Bitcoin address generation
- App settings
There’s no limit to the number of addresses you could generate, and for that reason, it is advisable that you generate many addresses over diverse transactions, in order that you may not be “conspicuous” on the blockchain; as malware might be monitoring the blocks, looking for high-value transactions, and you bet a recurring address would make for an easy target.
Since the Ledger Nano S is designed as failsafe, after three login errors, the device will shut down and restore to factory settings, so you’ll build the device from start again.
Scrolling through the menu is aided by two buttons located on the side of the Ledger, and selecting the highlighted option is done by pressing down the two buttons at once.
The screen has a bright hue about it, brighter than Trezor, which makes for great user experience.
Aside from improving user friendliness by adding the screen, Ledger also provides multicurrency support.
You could choose a bitcoin wallet or an ethereum wallet or any other compatible app you may want to customize.
This quality facilitates you to handle a variety of digital assets from just within a single device!
Cryptocurrency traders that use exchanges like poloniex would find this element very significant.
The wallets will allow you to both send and receive funds, check your account balance, as well as manage multiple addresses for each cryptocurrency, without switching devices.
The previous Ledgers were mediocre at best when compared to the Nano S.
Both their design and utility had been inferior.
For instance, the backup seed was generated from the computer rather than the Ledger, and with the Nano S, both the PIN and backup seed are generated on the dongle itself.
Keyloggers and other malware don’t have a chance to corrupt the device’s system, and so, transactions may go through even using compromised devices.
The makers of the Ledger Nano S claim to have used cutting-edge technology that protects the device against even interdiction attacks and 3rd party interceptions (think the nosy government wanting to “keep in the know” about your biz?)
All sensitive operations are kept in the Ledger, within a secure element, locked by a PIN. And so, transactions cannot be tampered with because the private keys are never exposed, and you’ll need to confirm via the screen all the outbound transactions.
If the Ledger Nano S had featured multi-passphrase encryption, the gadget would have received a high approval rating, considering it’s a low-priced gadget.
But I think that Ledger has over-delivered with their newest gadget, the iPhone of bitcoiners; the Ledger Blue!
Universal 2nd factor
The ledger also supports the FIDO universal second-factor authentication on compatible online services.
This assigns more meaning to your ledger away from the matter of cryptocurrencies i.e. you could use it for 2FA while online, and thus enjoy easy access to your intended portals.
The Ledger is based on dual chip architecture, and firmware integrity is approved by cryptographic attestation. The private keys are generated within a secure element. They are never known by a third party, not even Ledger (the company) because the philosophy of the crypto-world discourages any form of “tracking”.
The Ledger Nano S operates its own wallet interface; Ledger App, but you’re at liberty to integrate other compatible wallet apps such as:
The source code of Ledger Nano S is available, and the developer community may review the device and develop it as they deem fit. Hopefully, they will be able to add the much asked for multi-passphrase support.
Ledger Vs Trezor
In my Trezor review I concluded that Trezor was a great piece of technology, but in light of the handiness of Ledger, my view of Trezor still remains.
Yet I’ll admit Ledger makes for a worthy competitor against Trezor because of the ridiculously low pricing when it offers nearly as much as Trezor.
I think that Ledger would appeal to any bitcoin hoarder who’s on a budget.
Ledger Vs KeepKey
If we were talking about the Ledger Blue, then KeepKey would be an inferior product.
But KeepKey is a far superior product than Ledger Nano S.
All in all, I’m finding the fierce competition in the crypto-world delightful, and it’s interesting to see that Europe has the upper hand over America.
Two preventable ways bitcoins are lost
To conclude this review, I’d like to touch on the two ways you might unnecessarily lose your digital assets.
- Compromised exchanges: If you’re cryptocurrency trader, and have accounts on exchanges, you might do well to cold store your digital assets. You see, your exchange of choice may cold store your assets, yes, but still, they must put cryptocurrencies on a hot wallet for trading purposes, which is where hackers target!
- Lost wallets: Most wallets don’t allow their users to recover bitcoins once they lose access. You could lose access to your wallet by means of say, forgetting your password, which is typical, but your wallet may be designed to close you off.
And that’s precisely why you need to get a hardware wallet that gives you a backup-seed, so you’ll be able to rebuild a new wallet if you lose your old!
Have you used Ledger yet? How did it feel? #Comment