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How to Choose the Best Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

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Taking self-custody of a bearer asset like Bitcoin is a prerogative, as keeping the coins on an exchange is always a bad idea. However, finding the best hardware wallet, or as it might be more aptly called, a signer, is no easy task.

There are several factors to consider, and luckily, cryptocurrency expert Andrea Carnimeo from blockdyor has taken an analytical approach to evaluate the best hardware wallets, helping others choose the best device for their non-custodial needs.

This mini-guide will highlight various factors to consider based on hardware wallets reviewed on blockdyor. No specific brands will be mentioned to maintain neutrality, leaving the final decision up to the user.

Open Source

The first crucial factor to consider when selecting a hardware wallet is whether it is open source. An open-source device allows the software to be analyzed, enabling users to understand how it works by examining the source code, typically published on platforms like GitHub. This transparency is vital for security and trust.

Firmware Integrity

Firmware integrity is closely tied to open source considerations. It means that the firmware for a device is reproducible, ensuring that if users compile the source code themselves, the resulting binary will be identical to the precompiled binaries distributed by the manufacturer or project. This ensures the authenticity of the firmware.

Secure Element and Seed Storage

The secure element is a critical, yet often overlooked, aspect of hardware wallets. It’s where the private key resides, and it should remain isolated from the main processor and other components. Multiple secure elements enhance security, reducing the risk of physical hacking attempts.

Seed Generation

Seed generation is vital when creating a new wallet. The randomness of seed phrase generation depends on the software and entropy sources. The more random the seed, the better. Wallets that support methods like dice rolls for creating the seedphrase add an extra layer of personal entropy, enhancing security.

Software Wallet

A clear separation between the signer (hardware wallet) and the wallet (software) is essential. The hardware wallet should ideally allow users to use third-party wallets rather than solely relying on the companion app. This segregation enhances security and privacy.

Purchase Procedure

Consider purchasing a hardware wallet with Bitcoin (lightning or on-chain) and ensure that shipping address data is securely handled, preferably destroyed after a certain period. For extra privacy, consider shipping to a P.O. Box to prevent address leakage.

Packaging Safety

Ensure the packaging of the hardware wallet is anti-tampering, guaranteeing that it remains unaltered during transit.

User-Friendly UX

Usability is key. The wallet should be easy to use and read, with a clear and readable display. User Interface considerations should prioritize functionality over aesthetics.

Design

While aesthetics matter, a hardware wallet’s design should prioritize function. It should be inconspicuous, resembling common items like USB pens or calculators, and built with durable materials like polycarbonate and aluminum.

Air Gap

An air-gapped hardware wallet, one that remains all the time disconnected from the internet or a computer, is significantly safer. Features like Partially Signed Bitcoin Transactions (PSBT) and support for SeedQR enhance security.

MicroSD Backup

MicroSD backup is a convenient feature for storing seed phrases securely. Check if the hardware wallet supports this feature if you prefer digital backups over traditional paper.

Multisignature Support

Single signature wallet = single point of failure. For substantial funds, multisig support is crucial. Distributing the signing process across multiple devices and locations minimizes the risk of a single point of failure.

Passphrase

In case multisignature isn’t suitable, using a passphrase is an excellent tool to enhance entropy and security in single-signature wallets. It adds an extra word to the seed phrase, effectively creating a two-of-two multisig setup.

Connection

While Bluetooth and NFC are convenient, having the latest USB Type-C standard ensures compatibility with future technologies.

Ready-to-Use Package

Check if the vendor provides all necessary cables and accessories with the hardware wallet to avoid additional purchases.

Documentation

A well-documented website is a positive sign of clarity and user-friendliness. Thorough documentation ensures users can confidently navigate and utilize the hardware wallet.

Customer Support

Lastly, reliable customer support is essential. A responsive support team can assist users in case of issues or inquiries, providing peace of mind.

In conclusion, choosing the best Bitcoin hardware wallet requires careful consideration of these factors. By prioritizing open source, security features, usability, and privacy, users can make an informed decision to safeguard their digital assets.

One Comment

  • Mark says:

    Straight to the point and useful article, I also like the fact that there are no brands and you aren’t trying to sell stuff. I agree about the Open Source fact especially, even better if it’s FOSS!

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