San Francisco Man Who Has $236 Million In Bitcoin Only Has Two Password Guesses Left

by : Cameron Frew on : 13 Jan 2021 08:37
San Francisco Man Who Has $236 Million In Bitcoin Only Has Two Password Guesses LeftSan Francisco Man Who Has $236 Million In Bitcoin Only Has Two Password Guesses LeftLinkedIn/PA Images

A San Francisco man has just two password guesses left before he loses access to $236 million in Bitcoin. 

Forgetting a digital password is one of the most frustrating first world problems. You set one up, click ‘remember this password’ on the respective service, then you never have to think about it again… until that dreaded day when you have to type it manually. Then, you realise all memory of it has faded into the ether.


It’s annoying enough when it’s a social media account or an email address. However, let’s keep our fingers crossed for Stefan Thomas, a programmer from Germany living in the Bay Area who’s desperately trying to recover his Bitcoin millions.

Bitcoin Bitcoin PA Images

Stefan’s password would allow him to access his IronKey, a small hard drive containing the private keys to his digital wallet containing 7,002 Bitcoin, equating to roughly $236 million. Just recently, value of the currency reached an all-time high of $20,000.

However, Stefan has a slight issue. IronKey, as it sounds, offers strong protection for its contents; so strong in fact, that if you don’t correctly enter your password within 10 guesses, everything on it will be encrypted forever. The password he needs was written on a piece of paper, which he’s since lost.

Bitcoin Bitcoin PA Images

He told The New York Times: ‘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.’

Stefan’s plight isn’t particularly uncommon, though. According to cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis, around 20% of the world’s 18.5 million Bitcoin, worth around $140 billion, can’t be accessed due to being trapped in a lost digital wallet.

Wallet Recovery Services, a firm which does what it says on the tin, is now receiving up to 70 requests a day from people in a similar situation to Stefan.

China: BitcoinChina: BitcoinPA Images

Brad Yasar, a Los Angeles entrepreneur who’s lost access to thousands of now-valuable Bitcoin he’s created or mined over the years, said: ‘Through the years I would say I have spent hundreds of hours trying to get back into these wallets… I don’t want to be reminded every day that what I have now is a fraction of what I could have that I lost.’

Unlike the likes of PayPal, which allows you to store credit in your account and can help you recover your password, Bitcoin has no such service. Upon inception, its creator Satoshi Nakamoto wanted a cryptocurrency free from regulation.

Stefan, realistically facing the loss of his Bitcoin wealth, said: ‘This whole idea of being your own bank — let me put it this way… do you make your own shoes? The reason we have banks is that we don’t want to deal with all those things that banks do.’


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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Technology, Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, Money, Now, Tech, US


The New York Times
  1. The New York Times

    Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes