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Lost and Stolen Ledger Devices: Is My Crypto Safe?

Read 4 min
— If your Ledger device is lost or stolen, it might feel nerve-wracking, but knowing what to do, and what’s at stake if you do, will give you peace of mind.

— Nobody except you can access that device: this is the function of the PIN code, which only you know.

— You can still restore, access, and control your accounts as long as you’ve stored your secret recovery phrase securely!

If you have a Ledger device, you likely take care of it, either keeping it in a safe drawer, amongst your favorite possessions, or on your person at all times.

But hey – we’re all human, and mistakes are a part of life. So what happens if you lose your Ledger device? Or worse, what if it is stolen? You might think your crypto disappears with the device or that someone else could access your private keys.

The worry is understandable, but to give you a small spoiler: your crypto is just fine.

In this article, Ledger Academy explains exactly what happens if you ever lose your Ledger Device and how to stay secure no matter what.

What Happens If I Lose My Ledger Device?

If you have just lost your Ledger device, you might be panicking, thinking ‘ Is my crypto lost forever?’

But let us put you at ease: your crypto is not stored on or in your Ledger device. Your device simply stores the private keys for your various blockchain addresses. Your crypto is stored on the blockchain and is still safely stored at your wallet address. Your crypto wallet simply stores the private keys that let you access it. 

Even if your Ledger device is lost, your crypto is still safe in your account. 

However, you will need the secret recovery phrase (also known as a seed phrase) to recover your accounts.

What if my Ledger is Stolen, Can the Thief Access My Crypto?

No, even if your Ledger device is stolen, the thief can’t access the device. The first barrier for a thief is your Ledger device’s PIN code.

Ledger Devices Have a PIN Code

When you initiate your Ledger device’s onboarding process, it will prompt you to set up a PIN code.  Ledger device PIN codes are from 4 to 8 digits, and they are necessary for unlocking your device to sign transactions. This part of the Ledger’s Security model guarantees that no one can access your crypto simply by finding the device. Nobody other than you can use the device or access anything on it.

Even if an attacker were to try and guess your PIN code; have you any idea how difficult it is to guess an 8-digit code correctly? Here’s a clue – the chances are roughly 1 in 100 million.

Besides, anyone trying to guess your PIN will only have three attempts. Following the third attempt, the device resets automatically, wiping all existing data. To understand more, check out this tutorial on how to change your Ledger PIN. But put simply, if you lose your Ledger, this PIN code will keep access to your crypto safeguarded.

Ledger Devices Use a Secure Element Chip

Even if the thief is a hacker, Ledger devices use a Secure Element chip to store your private keys offline. This chip is resistant to countless physical hacks such as side-channel attacks and glitching. These in-built security features make it extremely difficult for hackers to extract useful information or make the device act unexpectedly. This is why Secure Element chips are also used in other secure industries, most commonly in bank cards and passports.

Just like if your Ledger is lost, you can recover your accounts on a new device using your Secret Recovery Phrase (seed phrase).

Restoring a Lost or Stolen Account with a Secret Recovery Phrase (Seed Phrase)

When you first set up a Ledger device, it will prompt you to write down a list of 24 words. This is known as a Secret Recovery Phrase or seed phrase. These words are important to note down accurately and in order. They act as the master keys for your account, allowing you to restore all the accounts you have ever created (and will create) with a single set of words.

As long as you have stored this phrase safely, you can restore your accounts on any wallet that uses a seed phrase without the original device.

However, if you don’t have the seed phrase corresponding to your lost or stolen device, your crypto really is gone. Looking after that seed phrase is imperative for restoring your accounts.  

The Best Ways to Back Up Your Wallet Access

While protecting your seed phrase is the single most important step you can take to ensure you don’t lose access to your crypto if your device is lost or stolen, there’s also another method: creating a backup. 

Create a Backup Device

Using a backup Ledger device is the easiest and most effective way of insuring yourself against loss and theft. 

All you have to do is import the seed phrase of your existing device on a second Ledger device, essentially creating a duplicate device. Just choose “restore” while initializing the device, and input your existing wallet’s seed phrase. This will recover all of your existing crypto accounts on the second device. This duplicate is now your backup device, and you can store it somewhere safe and forget about it.

 If you ever lose your main device, no problem. All you have to do is get your backup, and voila! You can transact like nothing ever happened.

Try Ledger Recover

Another option for accessing your crypto without your device is Ledger Recover provided by Coincover. Ledger Recover is a paid optional service that offers a way to back up your wallet access. That way, you can access your wallet, anytime, anywhere while keeping your keys offline.

Ledger Recover allows you to enjoy all the benefits of self-custody when interacting with web3, even on the go; giving you the freedom to retrieve access to your crypto wallet with your ID. If your Ledger device is lost or stolen and you no longer have your seed phrase, Ledger Recover makes accessing your accounts simple.

Losing Your Ledger Device Does Not Mean Losing Your Crypto

So there you have it – did you lose your Ledger device? No problem! Losing your Ledger device does not mean losing your crypto! Your PIN code prevents anyone else from using the device, and your Secret Recovery Phrase allows you to recover your accounts on a new device. Nobody can access your crypto and you still can, because that’s what self-custody is all about..

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