How secure are Ledger, Bitbox and Trezor?

This article first appeared in Issue 10/2022 of BTC-ECHO Magazine.

Ledger Nano S

With over two million users, the crypto hardware wallet Ledger Nano S is the most widely used wallet of all. The model is popular among beginners, but Ledger is also considered extremely safe among professionals.

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With Ledger Live, the company has brought what is probably the clearest wallet software to the market. The interface is attractive and user-friendly, so that even beginners can easily cope. In addition to creating different sub-accounts, users can even save their coins directly for staking. The purchase of BTC and Co. is also uncomplicated directly via Ledger Live.

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The private key, ie. the key to the digital box in which the BTC is stored is stored on a secure element chip. This is only used when signing transactions and is automatically read by the software. The device itself is protected with a PIN code, the length of which can be selected. If the device is lost, there is no risk of the coins stored on it being stolen. Ledger Nano S now also supports passphrases. This is an extra layer of security. If the feature is enabled, thieves can only access escrow cryptoassets if they get their hands on both the seed and the passphrase. In short: Your BTC is more than safe on Ledger Nano S.

ease of use

Setting up the hardware wallet using the Ledger Live app is very easy. Even crypto newbies with little experience can actually do no wrong if they follow the instructions. With safety-critical products such as wallets, this aspect can hardly be overemphasized.

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Ledger Nano supports over 1,500 coins and tokens. In addition, users can use the DeFi platform Compound with USDT, USDC and DAI to cultivate dividends and earn interest.

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BitBox02

The Swiss bank account among the hardware wallets? BitBox02 is considered one of the most secure “Bitcoin safes” ever. Besides the regular version, ShiftCrypto also offers a Bitcoin-only edition. The young company is thus picking up bitcoiners, for whom nothing but digital gold comes into the house anyway.

There are 2 versions of BitBox02: a bitcoin-only version and a multicoin edition.

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Like everything about BitBox02, the app is also heavily scaled down and therefore very manageable. There are exactly two buttons on the home page: “Send” and “Receive”. There are also features like adding different accounts and addresses. Very convenient: Using BitBoxApp, users can also buy and sell Bitcoin and Co. at the same time. The BitBoxApp seems extremely well thought out, offers only the functions that are absolutely necessary, and thus appeals to both advanced users and beginners.

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We especially like the safe navigation through the device setup. For example, before setting up the backup seed, users must confirm warnings such as “I should save my backup seed in a secure environment”. The seed itself can either be saved on an SD card or written down as a mnemonic phrase. The TOR function is really good. The app thus hides browsing data such as the IP address and thus protects users’ privacy. Of course, the hardware also has two chips. One of them, the Secure Element Chip, never interacts with the USB interface of the paired computer and is thus protected against external malware. The private key is also on the secure element.

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ease of use

The connection to the paired computer is via USB-C. An 8 GB SD card is included as standard. Users can create a binary version of the backup on it and restore all BTC and Co. stored on it if BitBox02 is lost. The touch-sensitive buttons on the top and bottom take some getting used to. The menu navigation in the app is clear and logical.

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BitBox02 supports over 1,500 coins and tokens. The Bitcoin-Only version supports – you guessed it – only BTC.

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Ledger Nano X

With the Nano X, the security experts at Ledger are bringing a new flagship to the hardware wallet market, setting the stage. Users can store up to 100 coins on the device at the same time, and with the Bluetooth integration, you can even use the Nano X on the go.

A new flagship for Ledger: The Nano X.

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Ledger Nano X uses the same software as Nano S. In addition to creating different sub-accounts, users can deposit their coins directly for staking via Ledger Live. The purchase of BTC and Co. is also uncomplicated directly via Ledger Live. Advanced users can use features like coin control. This means they can choose which UTXO they want to use for the transaction, saving transaction costs and improving privacy.

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The device contains two different, independently acting chips. The Secure Element chip interacts with the device’s security-related features, such as the keys and the information displayed on the display. Meanwhile, the STM32 chip is responsible for communicating with the connected devices. Even if the latter were to be compromised, this does not lead to the loss of keys, as each action must be re-verified on the ledger display. Ledger guarantees that critical data such as the private key always remains on the device. Even if the Bluetooth connection was hacked, attackers would not be able to access the data stored on the secure element. If you are still in doubt, you can simply turn off the Bluetooth function and use the device via a USB-C cable.

ease of use

In terms of ease of use, the Ledger Nano X has taken a medium quantum leap over its predecessor, the Nano S. The Nano X can be operated not only via the desktop version of the software, but also via the mobile app. To do this, the device establishes a secure Bluetooth connection with the Android or iOS partner device and can thus also sign transactions on the go. In addition, the Nano X’s screen has a higher resolution of 128 x 64 pixels and is slightly larger than its predecessor.

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Nano X supports 27 coins and 1,500 tokens. Users can deposit up to 100 coins on the device at the same time.

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Trezor Model T

Touch screen, color display, extended public key, node integration: Trezor Model T leaves nothing to be desired. With the Model T, Czech hardware wallet manufacturer Trezor launched a new flagship in 2018.

Compact and secure: Trezor Model T.

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Trezor Bridge is the link between wallet and PC. Unfortunately, many coins, including ether, cannot be managed with Bridge. For example, to store the private ETH key on the device, the Model T must be connected to third-party wallets such as MyEtherWallet. This also applies to all ERC-20 tokens. Here we would have liked a somewhat wider product range on the native software for better user-friendliness.

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When you create the backup seed, Trezor leaves nothing to be desired. Warnings like “Never make a digital copy of your seed” protect users from themselves and can thus prevent potential coin loss. What we particularly like is that security-related instructions, such as creating the seed, appear on the Trezor Model T’s display. Although the associated machine has been infected with malware, the device is not yet compromised.

ease of use

Setup is easy. Even newcomers will hardly have the opportunity to risk valuable coins through application errors. Those who are not grossly negligent (eg losing the seed phrase) keep cryptocurrencies safe with the Trezor Model T. The Model T has a USB-C interface and is therefore equipped for modern partner devices. Outgoing addresses can also be scanned as QR codes. The touch-sensitive display also does its job; Verifying BTC addresses, entering PINs and the like works seamlessly.

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With over 1,600 supported coins and tokens, Trezor wins the arms race against Ledger. Unlike Ledger, there is also no storage limit on the device. So every altcoin enthusiast really gets their money’s worth here.

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By the way: On our advice page, we put other hardware wallets through their paces beyond the ones presented here. You can also submit your own review there.

Want to compare the best wallets?

In our BTC-ECHO comparison portal, we show you the best wallets with which you can store your crypto assets safely.

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