The 244 million USD worth of Bitcoin owned by former Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas has recently been suggested for recovery by the security company Unciphered, which offered to help find the password.
In January 2021, Stefan Thomas, former Chief Technology Officer of Ripple, caused a stir when he revealed that he had forgotten the seed phrase for his wallet containing 7002 BTC. After 8 failed attempts, the owner of the Bitcoin has only two more tries before the wallet is permanently locked, and the 244 million USD will be lost.
The Bitcoin network allows users to create wallet addresses and privately lock them, known only to the creator. They do not need to go through any financial organization or identity confirmation steps. However, the downside is that each individual is responsible for their assets, with no central bank or organization to help or address risks.
Seemingly an irretrievable amount, the security group Unciphered sent a proposal to Thomas on October 25, claiming to have found a way to unlock the IronKey hard drive to recover his password. Unciphered stated that they had previously succeeded with a similar hardware unlocking method after “200 trillion attempts,” surpassing the 10-try limit on the drive.
Sharing with the media, Unciphered CEO Eric Michaud explained that by extracting information from the drive and using an offline server, the Unciphered team could not predict Stefan Thomas’s password, preventing the possibility of Unciphered unilaterally accessing the funds.
Details of the agreement were not disclosed by Unciphered, but they noted their readiness to accept the former CTO’s rejection.
To avoid mistakes like Thomas’s, some Bitcoin “management” services, such as digital currency exchanges, have emerged. However, these exchanges also pose risks, such as being targeted by hackers or the exchange owner using the deposited funds for personal purposes. A notable example is the collapse of the FTX exchange when the owner took funds from depositors for purposes outside the agreement. Previously, the infamous Mt.Gox exchange scandal also led to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of Bitcoins.
In 2013, a man threw away a hard drive containing 7,500 Bitcoins, and it has not been recovered to this day. In 2019, the founder of the digital asset exchange Quadriga CX suddenly passed away, taking with him complete access to the company’s digital wallet. Chainalysis research company statistics show that about 20% of the circulating 18.5 million Bitcoins are either stuck in wallets or have completely lost access rights.