Programmer on brink of losing bitcoin fortune worth $220 million after forgetting password


A San Francisco-based programmer is on the brink of losing 7002 bitcoins, worth about $220 million locked away years ago in an iron-key hard-drive whose password he now struggles to remember. Stephen Thomas received the bitcoins in payments for making an explainer video back in 2011, when its value was a mere few hundred dollars. With cryptocurrency now worth millions, Thomas struggles to remember his password he wrote on a sheet of paper years ago and has exhausted eight of his ten attempts to unlock the hard drive that stores his fortune.

“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Thomas told 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.”

Thomas has tried eight of his commonly-used passwords, all of which were incorrect. The ironKey gives its users 10 attempts to type in the correct password, after which it encrypts the content forever. His fate is shared by several others who are locked out of their cryptocurrency after failing to keep a lasting record of their passwords.

“Through the years I would say I have spent hundreds of hours trying to get back into these wallets,” said Los Angeles-based Entrepreneur Brad Yasar, who too has forgotten the password.

After Thomas’ story went viral, computer scientist Alex Stamos offered to help man unlock the hard-drive for a ten percent cut of his fortune.

“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 will make it happen for 10%. Call me,” he tweeted.

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