An unreachable bitcoin (BTC) fortune of €220 million is stored in the digital vault of Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer now living in San Francisco. What happened to Stefan? The only thing separating him from this astronomical amount is a password he simply cannot remember.
A god worth of bitcoin
When bitcoin was still in its infancy, Thomas was paid in the form of 7,002 bitcoins for making an animated video about how it worked. What seemed like a modest reward in 2011, after all, bitcoin was worth less than €1, is now a huge fortune. The value of those bitcoins has increased exponentially since then, but access to this wealth was lost when Thomas left the paper containing his IronKey password lost.
The IronKey is a highly secure device and only gives users 10 attempts to log in before it permanently locks itself out. After eight failed attempts, each new login attempt feels like a heartbreaking gamble. Every new strategy that ends in disappointment adds more despair to his situation.
This story is not unique. Estimates indicate that around 20% of all existing bitcoins – worth around $140 billion – have been lost or stuck in wallets due to forgotten passwords. While some bitcoin owners are benefiting from the increase in value, there are many, like Thomas, who are watching as their virtual wealth remains out of reach.
Still a chance for Stefan?
Despite the possible financial setback, Thomas remains a supporter of bitcoin. However, his experience with the loss highlights the drawbacks of the digital banking system that Bitcoin prides itself on. “This whole idea of being your own bank – let me put it this way: Do you make your own shoes?” he states. The message is clear: the freedom that bitcoin offers comes at a price, and not everyone is willing or able to pay that price.
In the meantime, Thomas has stashed his IronKey somewhere safe, hoping there will be ways to crack such complex passwords in the future. “I’m at a point where I tell myself, ‘Leave it in the past, just for your own sanity,’” he says.
So it seems that Stefan himself has already given up hope of ever getting his bitcoin fortune back. It shows once again that saving your crypto wallet password is extremely important.
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