It should suck to be Stephen Thomas.
He’s 33, works as a software developer, lives in San Francisco, and has $220 million US dollars worth of Bitcoin.
But he can’t access any of it because he lost his password.
Bitcoins and passwords.
Each one of us has been there.
You use a password every single day, and then one day, your brain goes blank, and you can not remember your password.
In most cases, you recover it easily, through a text, an SMS, a call, a code, whatever.
But with Bitcoins, things can turn ugly.
Stephen is one of the many people who have made an animated video explaining how Bitcoin works.
But the difference is that he made it back in 2011 when the whole trend was starting.
A fan of Bitcoin got so excited for this video, and he gave Stephen 7,002 Bitcoins.
The Iron Key.
He saved his password on an Iron Key.
What is an Iron Key?
Brace yourself because you are about to facepalm yourself as much as I did while reading the whole story.
The Iron Key is a USB drive with AES-encrypted directories protected by a password.
It is military-grade equipment.
It can be bought for something like 120 dollars online.
At the time, the price for Bitcoin was $4.41, which made it a kind gift but not as spectacular as it is today.
After years of not touching the Bitcoins, Thomas decided to recover his password by opening his wallet with the Iron Key…but he forgot the password.
The Iron Key is so well made that it has only ten attempts before it gets stuck forever.
And not even the company that produces it, Kingston Technology, can help.
If you fail the ten attempts, well, the Iron Key will wipe out every single file saved on it.
For the sake of the comic, I won’t tell you to go and buy one if you are prone to forget your passwords like Stephen.
But I do recommend you go check out IronKey on Google and see what it says about it.
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.
Yes, Stephen. We also would be desperate to lose 220 million dollars.
And then he added:
It was actually a really big milestone in my life where I sort of realized how I was going to define my self-worth going forward. It wasn’t going to be about how much money I have in my bank account.
Millionaires are being locked out of their fortunes.
But Stephen, who managed to maintain quite a great attitude while going through the loss, is only one of many Bitcoin millionaires locked out of their fortunes.
The New York Times reports that this actually happens quite a lot, and the main problem is that people don’t know how to backup their Bitcoins.
They’re not using it for transactions because they’re worried about security.
They put it in these crazy wallets with passwords that are right out of a Pynchon novel.
And then they forget.
That’s a problem.
Because Bitcoins are not insured by any bank or government; or any institution in any way.
So if you lose your private key, you lose your money forever.
It is easy to use Bitcoins for transactions, and that’s why many people are having success with them, but this does not remove the risk of losing the private keys.
Same story, another millionaire locked out.
A similar story happened in Welsh, where a gentleman threw away his key back in 2013, and now he would be a millionaire, just like Stephen.
The Welsh man offered 70 million out of his Bitcoin pockets to his city to retrieve the USB drive from the city dump.
This is what Howells told CNN.
I offered to donate 25% or £52.5 million / $71.7 million to the city of Newport to distribute to all local residents who live in Newport should I find and recover the bitcoins.
So if you are into cryptocurrencies, remember to always back up your data.
And always remember the phrase from the old guy:
“There is more money to be made in a safe than there is in a bank.”
Truer words were never said.
But then again, I am not sure if I would trust an Iron Key over a bank.