Recovery firm proposes cracking former Ripple CTO’s $244M Bitcoin hard drive


Recovery firm proposes cracking former Ripple CTO's $244M Bitcoin hard drive

A company is petitioning former Ripple chief technology officer Stefan Thomas for a hard drive containing more than 7,000 Bitcoin (BTC) that he has been unable to access for years.

In an Oct. 25 open letter, crypto recovery firm Unciphered offered to unlock an IronKey hard drive belonging to Thomas containing 7,002 BTC — roughly $244 million at the time of publication. The former Ripple CTO forgot the information to access the drive, designed to erase its data if an individual enters the incorrect password ten times. So far, the German-born programmer has used eight out of his ten attempts.

According to Unciphered, its teams developed a method to crack the hardware and access the BTC keys safely stored for years. Technology magazine Wired reported on Oct. 25 that the company was able to access the data on a similar IronKey after “200 trillion tries” — seemingly bypassing the 10-attempt restriction on the drive.

“Though there are always caveats, this is not theoretical,” said Unciphered. “We can do it; we’ve done it many times before […] And we can do it again. You don’t have to take our word for it […] we would be happy to demonstrate it on as many samples in a row as it takes for you (and everyone) to feel confident before moving forward.”

This is an open letter to Stefan Thomas (@justmoon) – we would love to help you get back into your IronKey.

— Unciphered LLC (@uncipheredLLC) October 25, 2023

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Unciphered CEO Eric Michaud said the company accessed the data in the IronKey from the Wired report by extracting some of the drive’s information and using offline servers, giving its team more than one bite at the apple at guessing the password. He declined to say what the firm would ask for in return from Thomas but added Unciphered had created a “sustainable business” helping people recover crypto.

“We’re prepared if Stefan doesn’t want to work with us, but we’re hopeful,” said Michaud. “We already have a business that is growing and we’ll be here when he’s ready.”

There are many highly publicized stories like Thomas’ involving recovery or users unable to locate their keys for one reason or another. In 2021, a Redditor claimed to have regained access to 127 BTC after more than ten years, finding the private keys on an old computer. In 2013, British national James Howells mistakenly discarded a hard drive containing roughly 7,500 BTC — he has made multiple attempts to locate and recover the drive in a landfill without success.

Estimates from 2022 suggested that users could have lost access to roughly 20% of Bitcoin’s supply. This amounted to billions of dollars worth of the cryptocurrency.


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