Programmer with Bitcoins worth $240 million forgets password

Bitcoins half hidden in dirt
Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash

You’ve probably locked yourself out of a bank account after forgetting its password. But did you have nearly a quarter billion dollars in it? Probably not. In an unfortunate turn of events, Mr. Stefan Thomas, a programmer living in San Fransisco, is on the verge of losing access to his Bitcoin wallet forever. The New York Times reports that the digital wallet contains 7,002 Bitcoins which, at the time of writing, are worth nearly $240 million.

Originally, Mr. Thomas had stored the private keys to his BitCoin wallet on an IronKey hard drive – a secure storage drive made by Kingston. He had written down the password to the IronKey on a piece of paper, but then lost it sometime ago. The drive allows you to try 10 times before encrypting itself forever. So far, Mr. Thomas has racked his brains and tried 8 of his most commonly used passwords, without any luck. This means he’s only 2 tries away from losing a fortune, for good.

Billions, locked a few keystrokes away

Bitcoin saw meteoric growth in value over the last 3 months, peaking at over $40,000 last week. It has subsequently come down a little, trading at around $34,000 as of now. With this historic surge in value, many early investors are dusting up their wallets, only to discover that they don’t remember their passwords.

In fact, nearly 20% of all Bitcoin seem to belong to lost or stranded wallets as per Chainalysis, a Cryptocurrency data firm headquartered in New York. At current market rates, that’s roughly $140 billion, with a B, locked away forever.

Mr. Thomas has one last resort to recover access to his wallet – pay someone to crack the IronKey drive. One internet security expert by the name of Alex Stamos has expressed interest at unlocking the drive, if Mr. Thomas is willing to pay him 10% of the total value.

The tale stands to caution users of the inherent lack of support in a decentralised cryptocurrency – whatever happens, you’re on your own. You can read the full story here.