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Programmer has two guesses left to unlock $240mn-worth Bitcoin fortune

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13th January, 2021 20:04 IST

Programmer has two guesses left to unlock $240mn-worth Bitcoin fortune
13 Jan 2021

Stefan Thomas, a San Francisco-based programmer, has only two guesses left to figure out a password that will let him gain access to his fortune of $240mn in Bitcoin.

He needs the password to unlock his Ironkey hard drive containing private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 bitcoins (roughly Rs. 1,750cr).

A "forgotten password" now stands between him and his Bitcoin fortune!


What exactly is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin, the world's first cryptocurrency, was invented by an unknown person (or group of people) under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009.

Cryptocurrencies—created and transacted electronically—use cryptography for security, regulation, and generation of currency units.

Notably, the price of Bitcoin has been rising rapidly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, each bitcoin is worth over $34,400 (approximately Rs. 25 lakh) as of 13 January.

Two attempts left before Thomas's fortune is forever lost
Bitcoin fortune

Thomas has forgotten the password to the IronKey hard drive in which 7,002 bitcoins have been stored, reported The New York Times.

IronKey gives users only 10 attempts to guess the right password before it "seizes up and encrypts its contents forever." He's already entered the wrong password eight times, which essentially means he has only two guesses left before his fortune is lost—forever!

Lost the paper on which password was written

Years ago, Thomas misplaced the paper on which he wrote down the password for his IronKey. The problem is that the German-born programmer has tried accessing the hard drive using his eight most frequently used passwords—but they all turned out to be the wrong ones.


How did he get 7,002 bitcoins in first place?

Thomas was given 7,002 bitcoins about a decade ago as a reward reportedly for making a video explaining how the cryptocurrency works for a company called WeUseBitcoins.

In 2011, when he was paid in bitcoins, each bitcoin was worth around $2 to $6.

After receiving the reward, he had stashed the bitcoins away in his digital wallet and had forgotten about them as well.

'Would just lay in bed and think about it'

"I would just lay in bed and think about it (password)," Thomas was quoted as saying by the publication. "Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn't work, and I would be desperate again," he said.

The experience has put Thomas off cryptocurrencies
On Cryptocurrencies

According to Thomas, this whole experience has now "put him off" the cryptocurrencies.

"This whole idea of being your own bank - let me put it this way, do you make your own shoes?" he said.

"The reason we have banks is that we don't want to deal with all those things that banks do," he added.


Seems like all hope is not lost
Cracking the password

However, it seems like all hope is not lost and Thomas could still be able to get his hands on his Bitcoin fortune.

After coming across Thomas's story, Alex Stamos, an internet security expert at Stanford Internet Observatory, has tweeted that he could try cracking the IronKey password if he gave him a 10% share of his Bitcoin fortune.

Take a look at what Stamos tweeted

"Um, for $220m in locked-up bitcoin, you don't make 10 password guesses but take it to professionals to buy 20 IronKeys and spend six months finding a side-channel or uncapping. I'll make it happen for 10%. Call me (sic)," tweeted Stamos.

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