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S8 E7: Lixin Liu on Cobo Vault Hardware Wallet (Rebranded as KeyStone, 2021)

In February 2020, Lixin Liu joined the Bitcoin Takeover Podcast to announce a second generation and consumer-friendly version of the Cobo Vault. The new device would be more affordable, feature more common materials, but deliver the same degree of security as its predecessor, which was designed specifically to suit the needs of Chinese miners. So while the aerospace aluminium case, the MIL-STD-810G US military standard and the dust and water resistance have been removed, the price has also been slashed from $479 to $119 (or $169 for the Pro version).

Also, the second generation Cobo Vault brings two extra features: a self-destruct mechanism which prevents theft, as well as a fingerprint scanner that makes the hardware wallet more personal.

The improvements can’t only be found in the hardware department. Now the Cobo Vault is compatible with more third party wallets and works with standards such as Shamir Secret Sharing (based on SatoshiLabs’ SLIP0039, which the Trezor Model T also uses) and multisig.

Definitely, there’s a lot going on with the Cobo Vault. And yet the device is far from perfect and still gets improvements. Though it has the best anti-tamper packaging to prevent supply chain attacks and it has the most intuitive and fast user interface of all hardware wallets (it basically works like an Android phone), it doesn’t open source everything. So Cobo’s device isn’t the most transparent and auditable of the bunch – it’s better than the Ledger in this department, but not up to the Trezor, BitBox02, or Coldcard.

In this episode, Lixin and I discuss everything about the Cobo Vault. From the most important features and how they compare to the competition’s, and all the way to the future improvement plans and some mean commentary on other hardware wallets, you’re in for a treat.

For more information about the Cobo Vault, check out my review article – it also features an unboxing video which shows my first impressions.

Also, Lixin’s previous interview is available across all podcast streaming platforms – just look for Bitcoin Takeover Season 4, Episode 9. Or click this link and enjoy the full transcript.

Listen to Lixin Liu on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

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This Episode is Sponsored by Vaultoro and Wasabi Wallet!

Want to learn more about the values of the two companies? I have recorded episodes with both Joshua Scigala (Vaultoro CEO) and Nopara73 (Wasabi Wallet creator).

If you would like to support the show and you’re into trading hard money like bitcoin, gold, and silver, then sign up to Vaultoro using my referral link. Vaultoro will help you forget about shitcoins and focus on sound money. They also allow you topick up your gold bars or have them shipped to your address, so you don’t have to trust any custodian with your money. Keep in mind that you are responsible for your own decisions and I am not providing you financial advice.

And if you would like to increase your network and transaction privacy, you should download Wasabi Wallet on your computer. It routes your connection through the Tor network to hide your IP, it downloads block filters so you validate your own transactions locally without appealing to a trusted third party, and it also connects to your own full node to boost your financial sovereignty. Wasabi is best known for its link-breaking CoinJoins, which are giving a hard time even to the EuroPol. Use the wallet to increase your financial sovereignty, but don’t do any illegal stuff – use your financial sovereignty with responsibility (also read the Wasabi terms of service).

Time stamps of this interview with Lixin Liu:

1:39 – Introduction

4:17 – The community feedback for the 2nd generation Cobo Vault and the design principles of the device

10:06 – What is the target audience of the Cobo Vault?

12:42 – Financial education, HODLing and securing coins

14:00 – The rise of multisig setups with hardware wallets

15:02 – The 3rd party wallet support for the Cobo Vault

17:00 – Why did Cobo choose PSBT via SD card and scanning QR codes via camera?

20:07 – Blockstream’s Jade hardware wallet

20:47 – Was Cobo affected by the global chip shortage?

24:49 – Does Cobo make its own chips?

26:49 – Can you build your own Cobo Vault from parts?

29:15 – What did Cobo open source?

32:22 – On a scale from 1 to 10, how open source is the Cobo Vault?

35:01 – Why it’s important to open source the code

36:57 – Why Cobo won’t support any shitcoin 

40:31 – What are the differences between the Cobo Vault Essential and the Cobo Vault Pro?

47:11 – Does the Cobo use code from Android OS?

51:53 – Cobo Vault vs Trezor Model T

55:06 – Cobo Vault vs Ledger Nano X

58:09 – Drawing patterns to unlock the Cobo Vault

59:33 – Cobo Vault vs Foundation Devices Passport

1:00:13 – Cobo Vault vs BitBox02

1:01:00 – Does Cobo have a bounty program?

1:01:47 – What about the Blockstream Jade?

1:06:25 – Why the Ledger and the Trezor aren’t cheaper

1:07:15 – What about SafePal, ElliPal and other devices that are similar with the Cobo?

1:08:32 – Why the SafePal sucks

1:11:16 – ElliPal and the hidden WiFi that Ledger’s DonJon found

1:13:51 – Lixin is in best terms with Rodolfo Novak (NVK) of Coldcard

1:15:56 – Using a Cobo like a Coldcard because of the better user interface

1:19:37 – The process involved in setting up your Cobo Vault and how the secure element verification works

1:23:29 – Does the Cobo mobile wallet get your xpub?

1:25:49 – Shamir Secret Sharing backups in the Cobo Vault

1:33:33 – Complexity beyond your technical understanding can be the enemy of good security

1:35:49 – JW Weatherman and Yeti Cold multisigs vs hardware wallets

1:39:38 – Securing your personal data when ordering Bitcoin hardware devices

1:48:01 – Buying hardware wallets from Bitcoin conferences

1:51:20 – What’s next for Cobo?

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