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When the key to the Bitcoin millions is missing

E.Most Germans have probably misplaced or lost their keys at some point. This is of course uncomfortable and often expensive. But almost no key is as expensive as the key that Stefan Thomas lost. The programmer of German origin who lives in San Francisco has lost the key to $ 240 million. Specifically, he lacks the password to unlock a small hard drive. The problem: There are 7,002 Bitcoins on the hard drive, at a price of around 35,000 dollars per Bitcoin, that’s around 240 million dollars. However, the hard drive on which Thomas has the wallet – that’s the name of the Bitcoin wallet – is encrypted. And not somehow, but with a program that destroys itself after ten wrong password entries.

Now he has already entered eight of his most frequent passwords, without success. “I was lying in bed thinking about it,” Thomas told the New York Times. “Then I went to the computer with a new strategy and it didn’t work and I was desperate again,” said the programmer. He has now clearly moved away from the idea of ​​digital currencies: “The idea of ​​being your own bank – let me put it this way: do you make your shoes yourself? The reason we have banks is because we don’t feel like doing all the things that banks do ”.

Not everyone is serious

Jokers are already making fun of him: for example, Alex Stamos, a security expert from Stanford, volunteered to crack the password within six months if he would get 10 percent of the assets in return. The problem: he was just joking. What will happen to the money now? Uncertain.

But Thomas is far from alone. The best known unlucky fellow of this species is probably James Howell. The Welshman dealt with the digital currency Bitcoin very early on. Back then, in 2009, you didn’t need gigantic data centers to produce digital currencies – a standard notebook was sufficient. According to his own information, he mined 7,500 Bitcoin. These were on a hard drive, but it is said to have been thrown in the garbage during a cleanup in 2013. The Bitcoin – as of today – would be worth up to 260 million dollars. However, the Newport City Council prevented Howell from digging up the dump, and so there is believed to be a little treasure slumbering in the garbage heap today.

This directs the focus on a big problem: Many Bitcoin are on accounts that no one can access, as FAZ.net last reported on October 9th. The analyst Timothy Peterson had examined the phenomenon more closely at the time. He assumes that around 4 percent of all Bitcoin generated are lost every year. This means that instead of slightly more than 18.5 million Bitcoin, only 14 million would be available today. Another estimate by Chainalysis is 14.8 million available Bitcoin. Either way: all over the world there are little treasures slumbering that no one will ever get at.

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