Ledger Nano S hardware wallet review

The Ledger Nano S hardware wallet is used to securely store keys outside the user's computer, which reduces the risk of key leakage. This is one of the most affordable and compact solutions in the industry from Leger. Like other hardware wallets, Ledger Nano S stores the user's private keys and does not transfer them anywhere outside.. From the 24 words of the seed phrase, according to BIP39, a private master key is generated, while the rest of the keys are hierarchically generated from it. Knowing the seed, you can restore all keychains and associated coins in case of loss of the wallet. To generate the keys of all cryptocurrencies that will be stored in the wallet, one seed phrase is used. The keys themselves are not transferred to the user's computer: the program (wallet) on the computer sends the generated transaction to the hardware wallet, and it is signed in the hardware wallet itself, after which the signed transaction is returned to the computer and sent to the network. Thus, private keys do not leave the Ledger Nano S, and it is more difficult for potential attackers to obtain them. The Ledger Nano S comes in a small white cardboard box.. In the box, in addition to the wallet itself, there are: a micro-USB cable for connecting to a computer; lace for wearing around the neck; cord for wearing as a keychain with an additional ring; a set of cards for writing down the seed phrase, which is needed to recover the keys; notification that the wallet checks the firmware every time it connects, and a special microcircuit (secure element) will prevent any attempt to extract the keys; a brief instruction recommending to start working with the wallet go to the site and follow the instructions. The Ledger Nano S wallet looks very much like a regular flash drive, but without an external USB connector, but it has its own small screen and two control buttons. The dimensions of the device (98x18x9 mm) and the weight of 16 grams allow you to carry it with you as a keychain without any problems.. Connection with a computer and power supply occur through a single micro-USB connector. The internal structure of the Ledger Nano S The wallet is easy to disassemble: just bend and detach the metal protective cover, and the back panel is attached to small plastic latches. It is enough to pick them up with a fingernail or a thin plastic card so that the lid snaps off. There is one printed circuit board inside, on which the STM32F042K microcontroller is visible closer to the USB connector, and the Secure Element ST31H320 is closer to the screen connection connector, in which the private keys are physically stored. Ledger Nano S does not have its own battery and only works when connected via USB to a computer, tablet or smartphone. Judging by the markings on the case back, this wallet was released in March 2018. The firmware code, including cryptocurrency clients, can be found on GitHub. Connecting and configuring the Ledger Nano S The developers announced support for Windows 8+, macOS 10.8+, Android 7+ and Linux operating systems, although the wallet also worked on Windows 7. To get started, you need to install the Ledger Life program on your computer – this is a command center that combines all interfaces for working with cryptocurrency wallets, utilities for updating the Ledger Nano, installing wallets inside it and other wallet operations. Initially, the Ledger Nano S comes empty, and you will first need to install wallet applications for the cryptocurrencies that you plan to work with in the future. During the initial connection, the wallet will ask you to set a pin code. It is not necessary to use all the numbers in the pin code, you can make it shorter by confirming the entry. This is done, like all subsequent operations, using two buttons.. Left indicates left or down, right indicates right or up, short press at the same time – enter, simultaneously press for 3 seconds – lock the wallet. At first, such control may be unusual, but by the end of the initial setup, most likely, you will press the necessary buttons automatically and without thinking. After setting the pin code, the wallet will ask you to save 24 words of the seed phrase. It is proposed to write them down on a card from the kit, but you can also store them electronically if you securely encrypt and restrict access. Remember, after receiving the seed phrase, the attacker will receive all the cryptocurrencies that are stored on the Ledger Nano. The wallet will show the words one by one, and you need to manually scroll through each one, and then confirm that the phrase is saved. The wallet will not take your word for it and will ask you to enter all the words in the correct order to continue working.. The task is rather dreary, but it is really important to reliably save the seed phrase, and this is a one-time action, so we patiently perform it. After these operations, the wallet will become available in the Ledger Life program. First of all, it is recommended to check if you need to update the firmware to a newer one.. There may be security patches in the firmware, so you should not neglect them. After all these operations, the initial setup of the wallet can be considered complete. Working with the Ledger Nano S wallet For an example of how a hardware wallet works, let's install the Ethereum application on it. On the Manager tab in Ledger Life, click Install next to the Ethereum item and follow the instructions of the program. If everything goes well, then the Ethereum application will appear in the Ledger Nano S interface in addition to the Settings application. To receive a new address, press Receive in Ledger Life, unlock the hardware wallet and enter the Ethereum application on it. The program will show the address for copying and ask you to check it with the address in the wallet itself. We verify, confirm, we have an address for replenishment. For example, I replenished the specified address with 1 ETH. The Ledger Life program successfully showed the deposit, even without a connected hardware wallet. Now let's check what happens in negative scenarios, and if we can send this 1 ETH back. For example, let's simulate an incorrectly entered PIN code several times. Three times is enough for the wallet to erase the internal memory and demand to recover from the seed phrase. We set a new PIN at the request of the wallet and enter the words of the seed phrase saved earlier. You will have to spell all 24 words using two buttons on the wallet. The good thing is that after entering three letters, the wallet offers hints for possible words, and they do not have to be entered completely. First we enter the wrong phrase – it's interesting to see what happens. But nothing interesting happened, the wallet cursed “Recovery phrase invalid” and refused to recover. Okay, we persuaded, we enter the correct one and we get a confirmation of the restoration, after which we reinstall the Ethereum application and try to withdraw our ether: Open the Ethereum application on the hardware wallet, check and confirm the transaction: The transaction was successfully signed and sent to the network. Problems with the Ledger Nano S There have been multiple connection issues while working with the Ledger Nano S wallet. Either the operating system did not see the driver, then Ledger Life reported “Oops, could't connect to device”, then “Sorry, try agin (websocket error)”. Sometimes it helped to change the cable or reconnect the wallet, run Ledger Life as an administrator, and once it helped to remove the device driver in the Windows Device Manager, all the previous methods did not work. The Ledger Life interface also looked very interesting when all the images fell off: But in general, there were no unsolvable problems with the Ledger Nano S wallet during the tests and work, it performs its functions. Ledger Nano S is an inexpensive solution for storing private keys on a separate secure device and reducing the risk of leakage, which is critical for any cryptocurrencies and tokens. A hardware wallet is more secure in this regard than a personal computer, smartphone or tablet, but the SEED phrase must be kept secret. Transactions are signed inside the wallet, the keys themselves do not leave it, only the signed transaction is returned to the wallet program on the PC after the user confirms the operation. The wallet allows you to work with almost all popular cryptocurrencies and operating systems. In the event of a breakdown or loss of the wallet, you can recover funds using a SEED phrase. An attacker will not be able to use your wallet if he does not know the pin code. It’s impossible to call the Ledger Nano S completely stable, reliable contact will not be with all the USB cords that you may encounter, but there were no critical failures or unsolvable situations during the entire time of testing the wallet. However, do not forget that vulnerabilities are sometimes found in hardware wallets.. If you have any questions about the wallet, you can ask them on our forum. The Ledger Nano S is priced at just under $100 at the time of writing.