Review: Trezor

Review: Trezor

As can be seen on the wallet page, there are several ways to store bitcoins. Choosing a wallet is always a trade-off between usability and security – the different storage methods try to balance these features. For example, mobile wallets are often very user-friendly, but not the most secure way of storage. On the other hand, you can, for example, keep your private keys in a safe place in the form of a paper wallet, closed off from the internet, but this again limits the ease of use and requires some technical knowledge.

Hardware wallets offer a very secure yet simple solution for storing your bitcoins. A hardware wallet such as the Trezor is a separate device that can be connected (via USB) to your computer to make transactions. The private keys are stored on the Trezor, but can never leave the device.

The Trezor

In this hands-on review, we take a look at the Trezor . The Trezor was one of the first hardware wallets when it became available in 2014 and comes from the Czech start-up SatoshiLabs. The Trezor costs around 95, making it one of the most expensive hardware wallets on the market. The founder of SatoshiLabs, Marek Palatinus, is a well-known developer in the Bitcoin community. SatoshiLabs is also responsible for Slush Pool, the first bitcoin mining pool, and CoinMap, a map of all stores that accept bitcoins.

The Trezor comes in a box with two hologram stickers attached so that you can check that the box has not been opened during shipping. In addition, the box is glued so well that you have to break it when opening it. This gives some assurance that the package you receive has not been tampered with. A small drawback is that the envelope states that the package comes from Trezor, which makes it easy for someone trying to intercept the mail to adjust the device.

In practice – Installation

When you first connect the Trezor to a computer and open your browser you will be prompted to download the Trezor Bridge or an extension for your browser – this will allow the computer to communicate with the Trezor. You will then enter the MyTrezor interface. From here the Trezor is initialized and you can manage the wallet.

In addition to the online MyTrezor interface, the Trezor can also be used in combination with various other wallets. For example, you can combine the Trezor with Electrum or Mycelium. This has the advantage that it increases privacy: you now do not have to manage your wallet online in MyTrezor and therefore do not pass on information about your transactions to MyTrezor. A full list of wallets and services that have integrated Trezor can be found here.

Each Trezor comes without pre-installed firmware. This way you can be sure that you are installing the latest version of the firmware when initializing and you do not run the risk of using firmware that has been tampered with in transit (during shipment). When the installation of the firmware is completed, the wallet will be created.

The wallet is created on the basis of a large random number that can be represented as a series of 24 random words. The private keys used by the wallet are generated based on this number (the 24 words). Wallets that use this principle are known as deterministic wallets. The advantage of generating the private keys in this way is that the string of 24 words simultaneously serves as a backup of all the private keys in the wallet.

The sequence is also referred to as the recovery seed . With the recovery seed you can regenerate the private keys associated with that specific string of words at any time. So if the Trezor itself is lost or broken, you can still access the bitcoins in the associated wallet with the recovery seed. It is therefore important to keep it in a safe place or, if you are good with mnemonics, to memorize it.

When creating the wallet on the Trezor, the series of 24 words is displayed on the device itself and you can write down the words in a booklet specially intended for this purpose.

You then set a pin code with which you can unlock the Trezor when you connect it to a computer. Entering the PIN code is protected against prying eyes. When entering the code, the screen on the Trezor shows the numbers 1 to 9, but each time in a different orientation. Then click on the corresponding boxes on the computer to enter the PIN code.

When someone tries to look over your shoulder at your screen or a hacker has access to the activity on your computer, they cannot see which numbers are entered. The layout of the digits changes every time the pin code is entered, so there is nothing to deduce from entering the digits.

Transactions

After initialization and setting up the wallet, you can view the transaction history from the interface, create bitcoin addresses for receiving bitcoins and create transactions. As an extra privacy measure, it is possible to create multiple accounts within MyTrezor. You can see the accounts as multiple separate wallets that you manage from MyTrezor. The bitcoin addresses used within one account will then not be used to receive or change transactions from another account. This allows you to manage different wallets privately, without them being linked together by third parties.

You create a transaction in the MyTrezor interface. Here you can enter the receiving address and the amount of bitcoins. In addition, you can select the amount of fee you want to send. This functionality is nice to have. It can sometimes be busy on the bitcoin network; at these times you want to be able to give a higher fee so that your transaction is confirmed quickly.

When you press send, the unsigned transaction is sent to the Trezor. The Trezor only accepts standard transactional data from the computer – data or code in any other format is not allowed on the device. So no malicious code can be sent to the device. So the private keys are safe, even if the computer with which you use the device is infected with a virus. The Trezor receives the transaction data and checks whether the received data is a legitimate bitcoin transaction.

The Trezor then asks for confirmation to sign the transaction. The Trezor’s screen displays the receiving address, as well as the amount of bitcoins that will be sent. This extra check on the Trezor screen provides extra security when making a transaction: you can check that the transaction data signed by the device is the same as entered in the MyTrezor interface.

After the transaction has been confirmed on the Trezor, the transaction is signed on the device itself with the correct private keys. The signed transaction is then sent back to the computer and sent from there to the bitcoin network. It is not possible to retrieve the private keys from a signed transaction, so the private keys never leave the device.

To trust

When storing bitcoins, it is desirable to have as little trust as possible in third parties. Trezor is taking good steps in this respect by being transparent about the hardware used and making the source code that runs on the Trezor completely open source. The disadvantage is that you indirectly also have to trust the manufacturer of the hardware in the Trezor. There are no known security risks about the processor used by the Trezor, but trust in the manufacturer remains a factor.

Conclusion

The Trezor is a very secure, yet simple and user-friendly way to store bitcoins. For daily use and small transaction amounts, a simple wallet on your phone is still easier, but if you want more security, a hardware wallet such as the Trezor is a good solution. After initializing the device, transacting is a breeze and it gives you peace of mind to know that your bitcoins are safely stored – even if your computer is infected.

Ideally, hardware wallets will be incorporated in our computers and mobile devices as standard in the future, so that they can also be used safely without running the risk if a device is infected with a virus.

Advantages

  • Bitcoins are safe from viruses and hackers
  • MyTrezor interface is user friendly
  • Safe storage gives a lot of peace of mind
  • All code used is open source

Cons

  • Trust in hardware manufacturer
  • One of the more expensive hardware wallets

You can easily purchase the wallet via the Trezor website.

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