The Ledger Nano S is an intriguing little thing. It’s a memory stick size hardware device that can perform multiple tasks. Including being a secure Bitcoin wallet, an ethereum wallet and hardware authenticator for the universal second factor authentication standard…
At first glance this looks like an ordinary flash drive, but if we swing open the metal cover you will see theres a little screen and two buttons along with a micro USB port on the end. The interface is intentionally simple and easy to use. You use the left or right button to scroll thru options. You press both buttons to confirm the selection.
Setup is really simple. First just put the micro USB cable into the side of the Ledger Nano S. You will see the logo pop up. It will then ask you to choose a PIN number. You will need to input this PIN every time you power on the Ledger Nano S. Its worth stating that if you enter the wrong PIN three times in a row it automatically erases everything on the stick, so don’t forget it.
Ledger gives you 24 different words to write down on the card provided. These are the recovery words which enable you to restore your generate keys in case you lose the hardware wallet. It then asks you a bunch of questions, to test whether you have written your recovery words down, after that your ready to use the device.
Ledger has its own Bitcoin wallet app that works in Chrome… The Chrome app seems to be a very polished experience, I just wish it was available in other browsers. You’ll need to have the Ledger Nano S connected to the wallet to load up. The rest is just like a regular wallet, but when you want to send a transaction you have to first confirm it on the device adding a great level of physical security.
The cool thing about this is that all the important keys and sensitive data is always stored on the Ledger Nano S itself. So in theory it doesn’t matter if the computer you use it on is riddled with Bitcoin stealing viruses or compromised in some other way, It will still remain secure. This also means you can plug it into any computer with access to Chrome and the Ledger wallet and still have access to your account.
Ledger also has an ethereum app available. Which acts in a very similar way. Since the source code is open. its possible for 3rd parties to create other apps for different cryptocurrency. The other app on the device is called FIDO. This is the universal second factor authentication system which allows you to securely log into websites. This works similar to a ubikey, which is compatible with sites likes drop box, google, GitHub and others….
It’s my first time using hardware like this and I must say I really like it. There’s something reassuring about having your private keys being secure and isolated on the device…
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