Only two more of the ten authorized tests remain before a San Francisco programmer’s portfolio of bitcoins becomes permanently inaccessible.
The man’s fortune is virtual for two reasons: it’s in Bitcoin and, more importantly, he can’t access it. Stefan Thomas, a German programmer based in San Francisco, can no longer find the password to his digital Bitcoin portfolio, which now represents 220 million dollars (180.8 million euros), according to the New York Times . He has only two more attempts left out of the ten authorized. Beyond that, his portfolio will become inaccessible forever. He would thus join the vast « cemetery » of lost bitcoins.
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Stefan Thomas was awarded 7002 Bitcoin in 2011 by a client. His password must give him access to a small hard drive – or IronKey – which contains the digital keys to the Bitcoin portfolio. This security system encrypts the data and can only be unlocked using this password, which only the Bitcoin holder knows. The programmer wrote it down on a piece of paper… before he misplaced it. Stefan Thomas has already entered eight passwords commonly used by him, all incorrect. He only has two left. « I would just lie on my bed and think about it. Then I’d bend over to my computer with a new strategy, and it didn’t work, and I was desperate again, » he told The New York Times.
« A painful memory, » Stefan Thomas testifies in a tweet. All the more painful because the price of bitcoin, despite a sharp drop on January 11, rose enormously in the last weeks of 2020 and early 2021. Cryptomony is up more than 20% compared to the beginning of 2020, and despite the correction observed on Monday, it remained at 21,000 dollars.
Stefan Thomas is not the only one to find himself in such a situation. Wallet Recovery Services, a company that helps users recover lost digital keys, is reporting an increase in the number of requests. They say they are receiving 70 requests a day, three times as many as a month ago. And according to the Chainalysis platform, which specializes in cybersecurity and cryptography, about 20% of the 18.5 million bitcoins in existence seem to be lost or blocked. This currently represents 140 billion dollars.
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This story is not unlike that of Canadian Gérald Cotten, founder and former director of Canada’s first Canadian cryptographic platform QuadrigaCX. Only he had access to the private keys of the 115,000 users of the platform. Following his untimely death at the age of 30 in 2019, millions of dollars in cryptography had become inaccessible. But if the platform then collapsed, it was because of a fraud by Gérald Cotten, Canadian authorities have shown. He had indeed set up a « Ponzi scheme »: the first subscribers were remunerated thanks to the money of the new investors, until the mechanism was exhausted. A danger of another kind in the world of cryptomoney…
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