Ledger Nano S – Protect your coins with a hardware wallet

Ledger Nano S – Protect your coins with a hardware wallet

December 28, 2017 1 By Ray

It’s been a long time coming, and I wasn’t intending on doing this guide originally as there are so many, but after numerous requests I’ve gotten some time to go through and document the process of using a Ledger Nano S.

I got mine from the great people at Coinjar. I won this one during a Facebook competition in September/October 2017 and I decided to hang back until now to write this review to give it plenty of time for my excitement to die down, as well as to live with the device for a few months so I can provide an unbiased report.

I will give Coinjar a plug though, you can Sign Up Today with my link and you get 500 points to use towards a redeem in the Coinjar rewards store.

My buddy has one of these Coinjar swipe cards; which enables him to use BTC for everyday payments. As he bought in when BTC was quite low, he’s actually beating inflation. I planned to get one of these cards and review it, but now that Coinjar recently had a poll to list either Ethereum/Ripple – I’m waiting to see how that pans out first. Whenever that happens, I will get one and ‘live on crypto’ for a month and document.

Unboxing and initial setup

So after a few days of waiting for the postal service, a neat little package turned up for me with the ledger in a sealed box.

From what I gather it’s a standard ledger nano S, no different to a regular ledger but with the Coinjar logo on it. The packaging is nicely put together and the materials have a nice touch and feel.

The package itself comes with a couple of key rings, lanyards and USB cable, as well as some documentation and recovery key sheet/card.

Ok let’s turn it on and check it out, within a few moments I’m greeted with a welcome display and commence configuring the device.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you there are thousands of videos on youtube on how to set these up; so I feel like it’s been done to death. To be completely honest, I just used the Ledger Nano S official videos from the offical Ledger Wallet Youtube channel. Anyone who is at-least reasonably savvy with electronic devices should be able to work this out; as the device is very intuitive and simple to use.

Ledger Nano S – Overview

Ledger Nano S – Configure a new device

So per the video, hit both of the buttons on the side of the ledger to start.

It prompts you to choose a pin code

You can use up to 8 characters.

You are then prompted to write down your recovery seed phrase, you can use the provided recovery sheet or something like a Ledger CryptoSteel

Cryptosteel – Explainer from Cryptosteel on Vimeo.

The device will prompt you to confirm that you have secured the recovery phase.

That’s it, it’s done!

There are a selection of wallets and apps already installed; of which I removed FIDO as a I had no use for it and wanted to conserve space. The setup process for the device itself was painless, so now I want to talk about the hardware and software itself, as well as what it’s like to live with this device.

The Device

The Nano S feels well made, heavier than a USB key and it’s metal ‘slider’ shuts over it when not in use, protecting its screen. The two buttons on the device are used not only for turning it on, logging in with your pin code, selecting apps/wallets – but also are used in conjunction with the screen for security when handling your coins.

In order to install an application, or confirm a payment you need to view the screen – see that the device is doing as you instructed, and confirm by pressing both buttons simultaneously. This addresses a key attack vector with ‘warm wallet’ that’s installed on your computer. Even if your machine was compromised with a remote access tools where a hacker could initiate a transfer, you would need to physically confirm it.

Image source: blog.gridplus.io

One of the primary criticisms of the Ledger Nano S is the lack of memory. It means that despite supporting a number of different coins, you might end up uninstalling and re-uninstalling different wallets in order to access everything on the device. Don’t stress, the coins are not at risk.

[–]btchipLEDGER WALLET[+1]Ledger CTO 14 points

There’s a limit on the number of applications that can be installed because the available flash is relatively low and there’s a significant amount of duplicated code. We plan to address this in the future (by optimizing things around and grouping applications together), but in the meantime you can just delete the coin applications you don’t need right now and reinstall them when you need to transact. Nothing is lost as the private keys never leave the device.

No (also memory is not important, you can just switch apps when you need to transact, and the upcoming software suite will do that transparently)

Karl Kreder Ph.D has done a fantastic review of the Ledger Nano S security vulnerabilities and I would highly suggest you review it over here: Hardware Wallet Vulnerabilities.

Not sure about the cost of the attack, but we plan to change this shortly, it’s an update that’s long overdue and extremely easy to deploy – actually I thought it was already supported, so my mistake on that, we missed ETH in the refactoring.

 

The Software

As it stands, the software is based on Google Chrome. This may change in ~June 2018 or there abouts: Google shuts down Chrome ‘apps’ section on Mac and Windows

The process is simple enough, head over to Ledger Apps and download the apps you need. Personally, I grabbed the Bitcoin and Altcoin, Ethereum and Ripple wallets – as well as the ledger manager.

Once installed it’s just a matter of invoking the correct wallet app on your pc, with the corresponding wallet app on the device.

When operating with multiple versions / wallets of the same ‘family’ , be careful that you pick the right one. So let’s do a Bitcoin transfer. I’ll select bitcoin on the pc, and then the bitcoin wallet app on the device.

The first time you open the wallet, it is created and synchronises. I clicked on receive, and used the address & QR code to send BTC from another wallet on my phone; though you could do this from any exchange etc.

The entire process is documented here in this video:

Additional Videos you should watch:

Issues & Summary of thoughts

  1. I only had one ‘serious’ which was using the Ripple Wallet. I tried it on multiple machines using multiple cables; and logged a ticket.
  2. Ledger Support must have been swamped because by the time they got back to me, I had resolved it myself by reinstalling the app on the device. I’ve seen other people commenting on social media who find this very frustrating.
  3. The lack of memory and having to uninstall and reinstall applications to access coins is a pain. You don’t get any reprieve by spending the money for the Blue.
  4. If you are truly privacy/security conscious, being somewhat reliant on Google Chrome applications can be concerning.
  5. The device seems rugged enough, but I am concerned about the recovery process in the event of device failure. I’ve ready that people haven’t had problems, but until such time I go through it successfully I’m actually paranoid about it.
  6. For major firmware upgrades, to handle major wallet changes or security updates – you need to go through the recovery phrase, again, I’m a little bit paranoid about it.
  7. The first time I did a transfer, I was waiting for ages for BTC to come across – and the wallet went into sleep mode. I panicked, but it turns out that doesn’t matter. This could catch out new players.
  8. Ensure you check the list of Supported Coins – it may not support your favourite coin.
  9. Overall I’m really fond of it, and much prefer having my coins off the exchanges I use. I patiently await the addition of more coins that I hold.

 I want one

Have you done your diligence and research? Do you think a Ledger Nano S would suit you? If you’d like one, and would like to support our blog at the same time (we get a commission for each one sold that goes towards site operation costs), go ahead and order here:

Ledger Nano S - The secure hardware wallet

As Ledger is based in France; they show their prices based in Euros. Here’s a conversion tool to help you out.
[currencyprice currency1=”eur” currency2=”btc,eur,ltc,eth,jpy,gbp,chf,aud,cad,bgn” feature=”all”]

Additional Reading and Research

  1. Official Ledger UserGuide
  2. LedgerWallet Home Page
  3. List of Supported Cryptocurrencies
  4. Log a ledger support ticket
  5. Coinjar Ledger Wallets
  6. Ledger Subreddit (great for listing requests for new coins, asking for community help etc)
  7. Ledger CTO on Reddit
  8. Ledger Partners with Intel
  9. Ledger Roadmap
  10. Ledger Facebook