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It stores $253 million worth of bitcoin on a USB stick, and it's drama

© Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

What could be more filmy than the world of cryptocurrencies. It is the only place in the world where a simple USB key can contain an unattainable fortune that would make Uncle Scrooge himself green with envy. This is what happened to Stefan Thomas, a Swiss developer, who has a huge sum of money in his hands, which he however cannot unlock. For good reason: the USB key that contains this money is almost an inaccessible fortress. A security start-up recently offered him a little help so he could get his dollars back. Back to this slightly crazy story.

Stefan Thomas, the man who was worth 7,000 bitcoins

In 2011, Stefan was an entrepreneur; for one of his projects – a video – he had been paid 7,000 bitcoins. The equivalent of a few thousand dollars at the time, a very modest sum when we see the current price of bitcoin, which is reaching unimaginable heights. These 7,000 bitcoins are now worth 253 million dollars, a rather tidy sum.

Once paid, Stefan stored the amount on an IronKey USB drive. Far from being classic keys, these have very high hardware encryption, extreme physical resistance and some can even self-destruct. Real little 2.0 safes, reputed to be almost inviolable.

Do you see it coming? The irony of the story, Stefan lost his password. He had a total of 10 attempts to open his key, but today he only has eight left. He is therefore sitting on a fortune, without being able to touch a single cent.

Unciphered, the decipherer of the impossible

Unciphered, a Californian start-up, is 8217;is offered to help Stefan so that he can finally recover his dues. Founded in 2021 by expert cryptographers, the company has already made headlines by managing to decrypt an IronKey for the first time last July.

An exceptional fact which had not gone unnoticed, particularly by the media Wired,which immediately wanted to put the company to the test. So they sent him a new IronKey, which they managed to decipher in 24 hours. Quite an astonishing performance.

Unciphered is particularly interested in stories like Stefan's, which is why the start-up offered him help. Despite this, the latter did not give his consent to the company to attempt the unlocking. He therefore declined the offer, but also consulted other expert decryption companies, such as Naxo and an independent researcher, Chris Tarnovsky.

The story of Stefan Thomas is the very symbol of the duality inherent in the promise of cryptocurrencies: incredible wealth, and opposite, the immense risk of crushing loss. The case is further from being isolated, since according to Chainalysis, more than 140 billion dollars in bitcoins are lost in nature.

  • Stefan Thomas, a developer, lost the password to a USB drive containing $253 million in bitcoins.
  • A decryption company, Unciphered, offered to help him decrypt his key.
  • The person concerned has so far refused the offer.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116