Back in 2011, German-born programmer Stefan Thomas created a simple animated video titled “What is Bitcoin?” to explain the fledgling cryptocurrency to interested enthusiasts. As payment for his efforts, Thomas was given a wallet containing 7,002 Bitcoins by a Bitcoin fan in Switzerland.
At the time, each Bitcoin was worth only around $2, making his total payment a modest but fair $14,000. However, Thomas made a crucial mistake – he stored the Bitcoin wallet containing the private keys on an encrypted IronKey hard drive and then forgot the password.
Fast forward to today, and the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed to around $34,000 per coin. Those 7,002 Bitcoins in Thomas’s inaccessible wallet are now worth a staggering $238 million!
Forgotten Password Prevents Access
The IronKey drive was designed for high security applications, allowing only 10 password attempts before the encryption permanently locks the contents away forever.
Thomas, in his security consciousness, did not write down or otherwise record the password he created years ago. Over the years as the price of Bitcoin climbed ever higher, he has wracked his brain trying to recall that lost password and gained access to his huge fortune.
So far, Thomas has used up 8 of his 10 password attempts on the IronKey drive to no avail. He has only 2 guesses left before the wallet is locked away permanently.
Teams Undertake Efforts to Crack Bitcoin Wallet
Understandably desperate to regain access, Thomas hired two separate teams of experts to attempt to crack the IronKey drive’s encryption and get the forgotten password.
The technical challenges are steep, as the drives use military-grade AES-256 encryption designed to withstand attacks. But with $240 million at stake, Thomas has funded significant efforts to combine cryptanalysis with creative social engineering to try to gain access.
Other cybersecurity firms interested in crypto hacking have also undertaken efforts to break into the wallet for a piece of the potential fortune inside. Cracking vintage encryption protocols poses an intriguing technical challenge to them with a huge upside.
Firm Claims Breakthrough Capability
One firm named Unciphered contacted Thomas claiming they had achieved a breakthrough capability to crack into decade-old IronKey hard drives. To demonstrate proof, they had journalist Andy Greenberg at Wired set a password on a test drive, which Unciphered then successfully hacked a day later.
They stated that their methods would let them attempt to unlock Thomas’s drive without fear of losing one of the two final precious password attempts he had left. However, Thomas declined their help for the moment due to his agreements with the existing teams.
The door seems open for Unciphered to eventually lend their skills if the two contracted teams fail to gain access on their own. However, Thomas remains cautiously optimistic that one of the ongoing efforts will pay off before the window closes forever.
Will Forgotten Password Be Cracked in Time?
Thomas maintains hope that he or the teams he’s engaged will rediscover the lost password or find a cryptographic backdoor into the IronKey wallet. However, time is running short, with an encrypted fortune hanging in the balance.
As cryptocurrency enthusiasts watch closely, the cybersecurity mission to crack this vintage encryption before the final guesses are expended has become a tense waiting game.
Will Thomas find a way to regain access to his $240 million Bitcoin fortune against the odds? Or will the IronKey’s security measures remain uncompromised, locking away the huge prize indefinitely? The outcome of this real-life crypto mystery remains uncertain.