This is some shit straight out of a Liam Neeson movie.
With so many sites having absurd requirements for passwords these days, it’s pretty much inevitable that we’ve all forgotten a password or two after we’ve created it. Sure, it’s annoying, but usually you just click the “Forgot My Password” button and get an email to reset it. I have to do it pretty often if I’m being honest, even though I use pretty much the same three passwords for all my logins.
But what if that forgotten password cost you hundreds of millions of dollars?
Well according to a report in the New York Times, a San Francisco computer programmer is sitting on a fortune in his Bitcoin wallet. $220 million, to be exact (although the price has been pretty volatile lately).
The only problem? He doesn’t remember the password. And he only has two tries left to figure it out before he’s locked out forever.
Stefan Thomas was originally given the 7,002 Bitcoin back in 2011 as payment for making a video for a Bitcoin fan called “What is Bitcoin.” Back then, Bitcoin was worth a small fraction of what it is now, ranging from a high of $32 to a low of 29 cents. That means that at the time, Thomas’ Bitcoin wallet was worth anywhere from around $2,000 to $224,000.
But obviously the cryptocurrency giant has taken off in recent years, soaring to a high of $40,000 just a few days ago. And now, the hard drive containing the Bitcoin is worth a hell of a lot more than it was 10 years ago.
Now, I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about Bitcoin. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what a blockchain is or how it works, and the idea of computers “mining” Bitcoin makes my head spin. All I know about Bitcoin is that it’s not actually real, but it’s still worth a fortune (kinda like Florida Georgia Line’s talent, am I right?)
Well apparently the hard drive containing Thomas’ Bitcoin wallet requires a private key in order to access the treasure. But Thomas can’t remember what it is.
According to Thomas, he wrote down the password to the drive years ago, but has since lost the paper he wrote it on. And this particular drive only gives a user 10 chances to enter the correct key before it locks up and encrypts its contents forever.
And here I thought it was annoying when I entered the wrong passcode and locked myself out of my iPhone for 2 minutes.
Thomas has already unsuccessfully used 8 of his guesses to try to unlock the hard drive (I’m guessing he’s already tried “password”), and now he only has two chances left before his $220 million is gone forever.
Because of how Bitcoin works (which, again, I don’t understand at all), there’s no way to simply retrieve the password. There’s no customer service to call for help, and no clicking “Forgot My Password” on the login screen to get a reset email sent to you. Long story short, two more wrong attempts and he’s fucked out of $220 million.
Thomas admits that the whole situation has caused him many sleepless nights, calling it a “painful memory.”
A painful memory. I hope others can learn from my mistakes. Test your backups regularly to make sure they are still working. An ounce of foresight could have prevented a decade of regret.
A painful memory? If I had hundreds of millions of dollars sitting on a hard drive that I didn’t know the password to, I’d be drinking myself into oblivion and calling up every hacker that I know (which is exactly zero, but you get the point) offering them a piece of the pie to get into that damn hard drive. I mean, surely SOMEBODY out there smarter than me can figure out a way to get into it, right? What about all those Nigerian princes who keeps emailing me? Anybody?
For now, Thomas is left with no other option but to hope he figures out the password on the next two guesses. But man, can you imagine the anxiety if he gets the next one wrong too and then he’s down to one final shot at $220 million?
It sounds like something out of a movie (or that scene from “The Office”) but unfortunately for Thomas it’s very real. And it could end up being VERY costly.