Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two attempts left to guess the password, which this week costs about $220 mln. The password will allow him to unlock a small hard drive known as the IronKey. It contains the private keys to the digital wallet that holds 7002 bitcoins.
The problem is that Mr. Thomas lost the paper a few years ago where he wrote down the password for his IronKey. IronKey users have 10 attempts before funds are permanently locked. Thomas had already checked eight of the most frequently used passwords and none of them were correct.
According to Chainalysis, of the 18.5 mln bitcoins in existence, about 20 percent, which is currently worth about $140 bln, is in lost or forgotten wallets. Wallet Recovery Services, a company dedicated to finding lost digital keys, said it receives 70 requests a day from people looking to recover their wealth, three times more than a month ago.