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Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes

Stefan Thomas, a programmer in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth about $220 million. The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin.

The problem is that years ago Mr. Thomas lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations—to no avail. Thomas said, “I would just lay in bed and think about it. Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”

Bitcoin has made a lot of its holders very rich in a short time. But the cryptocurrency’s unusual nature has also meant that many people are locked out of their Bitcoin fortunes as a result of lost or forgotten keys. They have been forced to watch, helpless, as the price has risen and fallen sharply, unable to cash in on their digital wealth.

Of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, around 20 percent—currently worth around $140 billion—appear to be in lost or stranded wallets. Brad Yasar has put his hard drives, containing millions of dollars in Bitcoin, in vacuum-sealed bags out of sight. He said, “I don’t want to be reminded every day … of what I lost.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

This sad story is in sharp contrast with the security of our inheritance that is guaranteed in heaven. “An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4).


“Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes,” New York Times (1-12-21)

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