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‘Desperate’ man has two password attempts to unlock $303m

·2-min read
Image: Getty
Image: Getty

A San Francisco man has been left with sleepless nights as he attempts to remember the password to a AU$303 million Bitcoin wallet.

Stefan Thomas currently owns 7,002 Bitcoins, but the cryptocurrency will be worthless to him if he is unable to crack the password on his ninth or tenth attempt.

The password will allow Thomas to unlock a small hard drive called an IronKey. The IronKey holds the private keys to his Bitcoin wallet.

However the $303 million code to the IronKey has so far remained alarmingly elusive, he told The New York Times.

Thomas had written the code on a piece of paper he has since lost, and if he makes 10 failed entry attempts, the hard drive will encrypt everything on it permanently.

"I would just lay in bed and think about it," he said.

“Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn't work, and I would be desperate again."

Thomas’ story is far from alone: according to analysis from cryptocurrency firm Chainalysis, around 20 per cent of the 18.5 million Bitcoin in circulation are lost or stranded.

One man in 2013 threw out 7,500 Bitcoins when he discarded his hard drive, which stored his Bitcoin keys, into landfill.

The Welsh IT Worker James Howells had been mining the cryptocurrency since 2009 but mistakenly put the hard drive in his waste bin while cleaning.

And in 2019, investors were left without answers when the founder of digital asset exchange Quadriga CX died, taking with him the sole access to the company’s digital wallets.

Bitcoin has captured investors’ attention in recent weeks after soaring past the US$20,000 (AU$25,950) mark in December and then the US$30,000 (AU$38,920) mark in January.

However, it has since fallen from those highs amid warnings a 50 per cent correction could be in store.

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