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Digital Bitbox Review – Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet – Pros and Cons

Ledger Wallet protects your bitcoins

Some days ago I’ve got my hands on a Digital Bitbox wallet and I’d like to share my thoughts on it. As someone who is into crypto 24/7, I also own a Ledger Nano S and a Trezor; besides those, I use certain software wallets.

What is Bitbox?

Bitbox is a hardware wallet that can hold Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bcash and LTC.

At first glance, the device looks like a small generic Micro SD adapter – it takes a while to realize that what you are holding is in fact a hardware wallet. This is a good thing for those of you who don’t want to attract unwanted attention.

Bitbox has a lot of similarities with its competency – the Ledger and the Trezor. In this article, we will be unboxing the Bitbox and taking a look at its core features – I will point out the differences and similarities between Bitbox and the two other wallets, after which I will walk you through the quick setup process.

Hopefully, after reading this you will be able to know whether this wallet is for you. Or, if you already own one, it might help you to better understand the device you have in your hands.

Unboxing

The Bitbox comes in a carton box sealed in a mylar bag. I suppose this is meant to prevent moisture from entering the device, which is something you might like if yours has been shipped across the ocean.

Inside, you will see a simple carton box that contains the Bitbox and one SanDisk mini SD 4GB card. While there is nothing fancy about the package, it is nice to see a micro SD card from a reputable manufacturer, as well as having the box coming in a waterproof bag.

Last but not least, there is no manual included with the device. Instead, there is a link printed on the box: “Getting Started: digitalbitbox.com/start

While a manual would be nice, I do understand the reason why they’ve replaced it with a link. Once you get to the mentioned web page you will see that Step 1 is about downloading the right wallet client for your OS. Like, why wasting money and resources on a paper manual and a CD when you can simply have the up-to-date info and software on your site?

Digital Bitbox vs. Ledger Nano S vs. Trezor

Apparently, not all hardware wallets are the same. I’ve compiled a list of the most important aspects (in my personal opinion) of a hardware wallet and made a little comparison chart. Then, I explain each of the mentioned elements.

Digital Bitbox Ledger Nano S Trezor
Price $ 70 USD $ 85 USD $ 85 USD
Open Source Yes No* Yes
Secure Elements 2x Secure elements lit in epoxy One and one microcontroller 2 microcontrollers
Element security More secure ** Less secure ** Less secure **
Application Native Desktop Chrome add-on Chrome add-on
Supported Coins BTC, ERC-20, LTC, Bcash BTC, ERC-20, LTC, Bcash, Zcash, DASH and more BTC, ERC-20, LTC, Bcash, DASH, Zcash
Supports SegWit No Yes Yes
Screen No *** Yes Yes
Team Switzerland Global Global

(*) The application is open source while the firmware is not. Some of its parts might become open source in the future.

(**) Against certain types of hacking methods

(***) See section below

Open Source

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Having an open source code brings a wide array of consequences. Some people argue that hackers can have an easier time finding breaches if they have access to the source code. On the other hand, the active community can find and fix those breaches easier when the application is open source. Closed source apps might have code vulnerabilities for ages and be silently exploited by hackers without anyone noticing it.

Plus, personally I wouldn’t trust my money to a piece of software unless I have access to the source code first.

Secure Elements

Coating the elements in epoxy can enhance the durability and security of the unit. Epoxy protects electronic elements from moisture, overheating, chemicals, short circuits and other types of direct and indirect physical damage. Talking about elements, the ATAES132A used in the Bitbox is considered one of the safest secure elements to date. Last but not least, the manufacturer claims that the chips have a 50 year lifespan.

Application

Is always more secure to have a native desktop application than a browser add-on. Browsers aren’t 100% bulletproof and a hacker that finds a weakness in the browser code will probably have unauthorized access to the add-ons too. I believe the less you depend on third parties, the better. No wonder why after relying on Google Chrome for 3 years, Ledger is now introducing their own native application (it’s still work in progress, though).

Supported Coins

Bitbox supports BTC, ETH, LTC and BCH, which are some of the most popular coins to the date. That being said, altcoin enthusiasts might consider this lack of diversity a dealbreaker. Some people prefer to buy less popular altcoins and then store them for months or even years in the hope that those will experience a rise in price. This plan requires a safe place to store the altcoins. Bitbox developers have promised to make the wallet compatible with more altcoins in the future, though we still don’t know when and how this will happen.

Screen

The device itself does not have a screen, though it can be securely connected to your smartphone. Thanks to the code architecture, there is no room for MITM attacks. Moreover, you can operate your wallet by using your smartphone screen, which means that in a way, Bitbox features the biggest screen among its competitors. This, while at the same time looking like your generic USB key (so you can avoid unwanted attention when you are in a café or a shopping mall)

Team

Who is behind Bitbox? Unlike Trezor or Ledger, Bitbox team is comprised of only five people. Those however seem to be qualified to do their job – each of them has an impressive background and working LinkedIn or Github profiles. Digital BitBox is a spinoff of Shiftdevices, a Swiss company that is part of a university in Switzerland the ETH Zurich.

As for today, I haven’t heard of a single complain about their support. According to bitcoinwalletguy, “All of my emails were replied within 24 hours, and I’m satisfied with the level of information their support team provided”. The only caveat here is that their website does not clearly show the support email. You’ve got to contact them by using this one: support@digitalbitbox.com

Bitbox – the Best Wallet for a Beginner?

As you will see in the setup section, Bitbox is quite easy to install and configure. Of course, experienced users can dig into some advanced features such as setting up the client to work on Tails OS. This does require some extra steps but they are not necessary if you simply want to install the client on a Windows, Linux or Mac computer. Here are some handy features that make the Bitbox a user-friendly wallet:

Beginner-friendly

Unlike, say, the Ledger Nano S, you don’t have to configure the new wallet through a small screen using only two buttons. All of the few simple steps are done through the desktop app and your smartphone.

Micro SD Wallet Back Up

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Having back ups of your keys is important and DigitalBitbox offers you exactly that – this hardware wallet allows you to clone your keys to an external micro SD card. You just have to preserve both the SD card and the password to have access to your keys anytime.

Bootloader

Bootloader ensures you that no one had access to the device before you. This process happens only once when you first set up the device and ensures that the hardware wallet you’re holding is certified and signed. This important process is fully automated, which again is a great thing for all users, especially beginners.

Price

Yet another feature that makes this wallet quite good for beginners, DigitalBox costs only $ 70 USD which is about 15 dollars cheaper than any of the available alternatives.

Set Up

Here you can find few images with the steps i followed to make it work, i will not add a stept by step guide as usual because BitBox team already added a start page where you will find everything needed: https://shiftcrypto.ch/start

Pros

  • Stand-alone desktop software compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Tor, Tails OS and FIDO U2F two-factor authentication compatible
  • Secure on-board memory
  • Triple layer of protection to ensure legit random key generation entropy
  • Easy backup and recovery using an external Micro SD card
  • Reputable developers
  • Less expensive than other alternatives
  • No extra transaction fees
  • Designed and made in Switzerland

Cons

  • As for today, it only works with Bitcoin, Bcash, Litecoin and ERC-20 tokens
  • No SegWit Support
  • Remote handling of the signature verification
  • Can’t verify the sending address
  • Wallet is not able to communicate with a phone on Tails

Where to buy!

In Conclusion

Bitbox is a good option for those who have never owned a hardware wallet before. It costs less than other similar devices and is really easy to set up and use.

I also think that even experienced investors might be interested in trying the BitBox because of its unique security features and external similarities with a generic USB stick.

Thank you for reading. As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.

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