Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Don’t Forget Your Bitcoins

Nathaniel Popper (via Matt Levine):

The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday, it is still up more than 50 percent from just a month ago when it passed its previous all-time high around $20,000.

The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.


Of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, around 20 percent — currently worth around $140 billion — appear to be in lost or otherwise stranded wallets, according to the cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis.

I don’t understand how they can measure this. In any case, it’s a good reminder to use a password manager or have a physical record of your important passwords.

Update (2021-01-13): Dave Jevans:

As co-founder of IronKey I will tell you that we spent $50M building it. NSA reviewed it. We worked with Atmel on a custom AT98SC smart card to store the encrypted AES key and RSA private keys. It will cost a lot to reliably crack one without the chip resetting itself.

Dave Jevans:

IronKey/Atmel security features include voltage, frequency and temperature detectors, illegal code execution prevention, tampering monitors and protection against side channel attacks and probing.

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

I didn't read it carefully, but Chainalysis details their methodology for estimating lost Bitcoin here: https://blog.chainalysis.com/reports/money-supply (Search for "Methodology for estimating the number of lost bitcoins")

Leave a Comment