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The password to over $200 million in Bitcoin was forgotten by the man, but hackers have found a workaround


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He has two attempts left to guess the password. If he's wrong, the hard drive erases his money.

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A hard drive on a dark background.

If you use an IronKey hard drive, try to remember the password.

Image credit: Eshma/Shutterstock.com

A team of cybersecurity experts say they have figured out how to access a Bitcoin wallet worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The only problem is that the owner isn't interested.

In 2011, programmer Stefan Thomas created an animated video titled "What Is Bitcoin" for a Bitcoin enthusiast in Switzerland. For his trouble, he was appropriately paid in Bitcoin. 7,002 Bitcoins to be precise. At the time the coins were only worth around $2 each, which is still pretty good for a short and relatively simple animation. Bitcoins are now worth around $34,095.40 each, making his Bitcoin worth $238,735,990.80.

Unfortunately for Thomas, he was the security-conscious type, and kept the Bitcoin on an encrypted IronKey hard drive. The IronKey gives whoever is trying to access it 10 guesses before it basically self-destructs, making it inaccessible to anyone who, for example, has $238,735,990.80 stored on there.

This is great when it's some other nefarious character trying to access your money, but less than ideal when that nefarious person is you 10 years on with absolutely no memory of what the password is, and the amount you're attempting to access is $240 million. This is precisely what happened to Thomas, having lost the piece of paper on which he'd noted his password.

Since the value of Bitcoin skyrocketed, he has attempted to access the hard drive in various different ways. The result is that he has two tries left before his stash is lost forever.

Thomas is not the only one attempting to get into that wallet. As well as two teams hired by him, cyber security experts have been tempted by the possibility of hacking the wallet and earning themselves a tasty commission in the process. 

Unciphered, a firm that specializes in recovering lost cryptocurrency, has been working on a solution. Now they say they have found a way to crack into decade-old IronKey hard drives, demonstrating to Wired that it is possible by having journalist Andy Greenberg set a password, which they then messaged back to him the following day.

The firm has contacted Thomas now that they are confident of their method, according to Wired, but at the moment he has declined their help, due to agreements he has in place with two teams working on their own solutions.

“I have already been working with a different set of experts on the recovery so I'm no longer free to negotiate with someone new,” Thomas told Wired. “It's possible that the current team could decide to subcontract Unciphered if they feel that's the best option. We'll have to wait and see."

[H/T: Wired]


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