German-born programmer and Coil CEO Stefan Thomas has continued to find himself at a crossroads, with only two attempts left to crack a code that holds the potential to unlock a fortune of staggering proportions after he forgot his password.
Thomas owned an IronKey, a small hard drive that housed the private keys to a digital wallet containing an astonishing 7,002 Bitcoin (approximately 198M today), which he purchased back when the cryptocurrency traded at around $5.
The story began when Thomas misplaced a paper containing his password to the IronKey wallet. With only ten guesses available before the IronKey’s contents were encrypted forever, Thomas’s urgency to retrieve his lost wealth was solid. He tried eight combinations, each attempt yielding nothing but frustration and desperation.
“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Thomas confessed in a 2021 interview. “Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”
In an interview last month, Stefan further spoke about his relentless efforts to unlock the Bitcoin trapped in his hardware wallet. Talking on the “Thinking Crypto” YouTube channel, the pundit acknowledged that the recovery process was far from simple.
“The process is still ongoing, so we’re still working on it,” he stated. He shed light on the intricate challenges faced due to the substantial sum at stake. “When you’re dealing with so much money, everything takes forever,” he emphasized.
Stefan detailed the thorough approaches required for both physical and software attacks. “Before you can do some physical attack, you first have to try it lots of times. Before you do a software attack, you first wanna try every angle,” he explained. He further expressed his desire for closure, stating, “Honestly, at this point, after 10 years, I don’t care. Just get it over with.”
Stefan Thomas’s plight is not an isolated incident. In 2013, a computer engineer named James Howells accidentally discarded a driver, which held 7,500 bitcoins, during an office cleaning session. This event convinced him that the valuable item was resting in a landfill in Newport, south Wales. Despite James Howells’ persistent appeals, the local council consistently denied his requests to search the landfill, citing environmental concerns.
Bitcoin’s decentralized nature, while empowering users, has also led to numerous stories of forgotten passwords and inaccessible fortunes. Around 20 per cent of 18.5 million Bitcoins, valued at approximately $93 billion, are believed to be trapped in lost or stranded wallets.
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