A 15-year-old security researcher has discovered a serious flaw in cryptocurrency hardware wallets made by Ledger, a French company whose popular products are designed to physically safeguard public and private keys used to receive or spend the user’s cryptocurrencies.
Hardware wallets like those sold by Ledger are designed to protect the user’s private keys from malicious software that might try to harvest those credentials from the user’s computer. The devices enable transactions via a connection to a USB port on the user’s computer, but they don’t reveal the private key to the PC.
Yet Saleem Rashid, a 15-year-old security researcher from the United Kingdom, discovered a way to acquire the private keys from the Ledger devices. Rashid’s method requires an attacker to have physical access to the device, and normally such attacks would fall under the #1 rule of security — namely, if an attacker has physical access to your device it is not your device anymore.