Programmer Loses Password to Wallet Containing $220 Million in Bitcoin

A computer programmer who years ago wrote down the password to a cryptocurrency wallet on a piece of paper, has since lost the said paper, and with it access to around $220 million in Bitcoin.

Can you imagine having over $200 million and no way to ever access it? That’s exactly the story of San Francisco-based programmer Stefan Thomas, who has been trying to remember the password of his IronKey, a special hard-drive that contains the private keys to a digital wallet with 7,002 Bitcoin. He received the digital currency 10 years ago, while living in Switzerland, from an early Bitcoin adopter, as payment for an animated video he made, titled “What is Bitcoin?”. He lost the password to his IronKey that same year, but since a Bitcoin was only worth around $5 back then, it didn’t bother him that much. Things have changed a bit since then, though…

Photo: Dmitri Demidko/Unsplash

“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Mr. Thomas told The New York Times. “Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”

Over the years Stefan has attempted to guess the password he lost in 2011, but he has failed eight times so far, which only leave him two more guesses, before the IronKey locks up for good. In order to get his mind off of his locked fortune, the IT specialist has put the hard-drive in a secret secure facility until one day when a smart cryptographer comes up with a way to crack the IronKey.

“I got to a point where I said to myself, ‘Let it be in the past, just for your own mental health,'” he said.

In case you’ve been living under a rock and managed to remain oblivious to the rise of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin reached an all-time-high price of $41,962 earlier this month, and despite a significant drop, it’s still sitting at a staggering $34,800, at the time of this writing. That makes Thomas’ 7,002 Bitcoins quite valuable.

Luckily for the computer programmer, he still has enough Bitcoin, in wallets he does remember the passwords to, to afford anything he could ever want, so he is not desperate to crack his locked treasure. Still, his story has attracted quite a lot of attention online over the last couple of days, with some people offering to help him access his riches, for a considerable fees, and others expressing their disbelief.

Interestingly, cases like that of Stefan Thomas aren’t exactly rare. In fact, cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis estimates that approximately 20 percent of the 18.5 million available Bitcoin appears to be either lost or locked in inaccessible wallets. Nature of the beast, I guess.

So happy I didn’t put money into this early on, who knows, maybe this could have been me…

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