The dangers of inaccessible digital wealth – potentially lost forever – are being felt most acutely during the 2021 market boom.
A programmer has two more attempts to set his password before losing $266 million in BitcoinNOTÍCIAS
A German-born programmer in San Francisco has already used 8 of his 10 password attempts to unlock the hard drive containing the private keys of his Bitcoin wallet, which contains 7,002 Bitcoin (BTC). To date, these holdings would be worth US$268 million – that is, if they were accessible.
As described in a New York Times profile on 12 January, Stefan Thomas uses a hard drive called IronKey, but has lost the paper on which he wrote down the device’s password „years ago. If Thomas doesn’t remember, ten unsuccessful assumptions will cause the drive to encrypt its contents forever. He has so far tried eight unlucky assumptions.
„I lie in bed thinking about it. Then I go to the computer with some new strategy, and it doesn’t work, and I get desperate again. ”
It is believed that almost 20% of all existing Bitcoins – 18.5 million BTC – have been lost forever in so-called „stranded“ portfolios, according to Chainalysis data. Thomas is not alone in his stated despair: a Los Angeles businessman, Brad Yasar, told the Times that over the years „I would say I have spent hundreds of hours“ trying to get back to inaccessible wallets.
Yasar has kept his hard drives „in vacuum-sealed bags“ so that he will not be „reminded every day that what he now has is a fraction of what he could have and lost.
None of the stories are unusual: Wallet Recovery Services, a company specializing in lost digital key recovery, is supposed to receive 70 requests per day from customers seeking help. This number is three times higher than before the market rose.
Thomas‘ experience has apparently removed him from the concept of a technology that puts the onus on individual users to take their finances into their own hands – with all the freedom and risks that this entails. Having originally received BTC 7,002 as a gift in exchange for producing a video to educate people about currency, he is now sceptical about leaving users with that degree of control:
„All this idea of being your own bank – let me put it this way: you make your own shoes? The reason we have banks is that we don’t want to deal with all the things that banks do. ”
In addition to his extraordinary losses, Thomas, however, has kept Bitcoin enough over the years to make a fortune – he is so rich that he barely knows what to do with that money. He also later joined Ripple and acquired XRP, although the company’s recent legal difficulties may now cast a shadow over the future prospects of the project.
The report notes that there are similar risks when users entrust their keys to others – citing Mt. Gox and other industry crimes – but includes the opinion of those who believe that digital currency offsets are worth it, at the end of the day.
A businessman in Barbados, despite losing 800 BTCs in the past, said that „the risk of being my own bank comes with the reward of being able to access my money freely and be a citizen of the world. His vision, from a corner of the globe where financial inclusion remains a concern, provides an idea of why many people can continue to think the same way.