The value of Bitcoin has reached very high levels and continues to generate huge returns for crypto investors. But there are few people who are not satisfied with this rise: computer programmer Stefan Thomas is one of them.
Thomas is about to lose the password to a hard drive called IronKey, where the private key of his Bitcoin wallet holding about $ 140 million, or 7,002 BTC, is hidden. IronKey gives its owners ten attempts to get the correct password and if they fail, it will encrypt their content forever. Thomas has tried it eight times so far.
Thomas isn’t the only one to complain about having trouble accessing his Bitcoins. Brad Yasar, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, lost access to the Bitcoins he mined in the early days when it wasn’t very valuable. According to the cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis, about 20% of the 18.5 million BTC currently in existence, or $ 140 billion worth of BTC, have been lost due to forgotten passwords, The New York Times reports.
Bitcoins are found on blockchain, a type of distributed ledger technology run by hundreds of thousands of computers or nodes. As is popularly known, Bitcoin wallets are actually public addresses on the blockchain. While anyone can see what their content is, the only way to access them or take an action is to use a private key.
These private keys can be a list of 24 random words or strings of letters, text, and numbers that must be typed to open and log in to wallets. So even if people lose access to their computers, they can continue to access their Bitcoins as long as they remember their public address and private keys.
Stefan kept the private keys on IronKey but forgot the driver’s passwords. Bitcoin wallets act like virtual bank accounts, but no government can block or regulate money. After Stefan loses access to his wealth, Bitcoin’s slogan “Be your own bank” hangs a bit. “The reason we have banks is because we don’t want to deal with all these things banks do,” Stefan said in a statement.