Top 3 Stories of Lost Bitcoin Fortunes

Top 3 Stories of Lost Bitcoin Fortunes

Bitcoin can make you a millionaire, provided you retain access to your wallet.

With a market capitalization of US$380 billion, Bitcoin has established itself as the most prominent cryptocurrency today. While Bitcoin continues to dominate the crypto market, its price crashing from an all-time high of over US$68,000 in November 2021 to US$19,775 a year later has left people pulling their hair, with some even attempting suicide. 

But perhaps the ones who have experienced the most significant losses in Bitcoin aren’t people who have lost money but those who have lost access to their Bitcoin investments. If you have ever felt frustrated about losing a password or throwing away an important document, just wait to hear how these people lost millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin for the same reason. 

James Howell’s lost hard drive 

In 2013, 36-year-old engineer James Howell threw away the hard drive containing the cryptographic key to his Bitcoin wallet while clearing out his house. Howell used to have two identical hard drives and ended up throwing away the wrong one, locking himself out of his 8,000 BTC holdings, which would be worth close to US$158 million as per the current exchange rate. 

This hard drive ended up in a landfill in New Port, Wales. Howell has been trying to get permission to excavate the landfill to retrieve his lost drive for nearly a decade with no luck. The local government of New Port believes that trying to dig up the drive would adversely affect the environment and has thus firmly denied his requests. 

Things took an interesting turn this year. Howell brought on venture capitalists (VCs) Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn to fund his excavation attempt using robot dogs as well as a team of eight experts in data extraction and landfill excavation. This final effort to extract the hard drive would cost the VCs US$11 million. If the drive is successfully retrieved, the VCs will receive US$50 million worth of Bitcoin. Howell intends to keep 30% of the rest of the holdings, give another 30% to those who work on the excavation and also give US$60 to each resident of New Port. 

Stefan Thomas’s lost password

Former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Ripple, Stefan Thomas, made headlines in 2021 for forgetting the password of the hard drive that contained the key to his Bitcoin wallet. The hard drive, known as the Iron Key, has been designed to be impervious to all attacks and only provides users with ten attempts before they are permanently locked out of the drive. As of 2021, Thomas is down to his final two attempts. 

The Bitcoin wallet that Thomas cannot access contains 7,200 BTC, which would be worth over US$142 million today. As per Thomas, the only other way to retrieve the information would be by breaking the drive apart, removing its chip and putting it under a scanning electron microscope to read the individual flash memory cells. 

However, this process would require a lot of time and money, and even after that, there are chances that he would fail to retrieve the information. Thomas has been trying to log into the hard drive since 2012 and says he has now made peace with his loss.

Individual X’s Bitcoin hacking challenge

If you are a frequent reader of our website, you would be familiar with how the crypto space has its fair share of hackers and cybercriminals. Many cybercriminals steal crypto wallets and try to unlock them to access the funds inside. If they are unsuccessful in cracking the passwords, they sell them to other hackers. 

The same had been happening with Individual X’s wallet, the seventh-largest Bitcoin wallet in the world. As far back as 2018, it had been making the rounds among hackers, who would pry the wallet open to access the 69,000 BTC (worth over US$1.18 billion as per the current exchange rate) it contains. 

The blockchain analysis conducted by Chainalysis on this wallet found that all the funds inside had been sent via transactions from the dark net marketplace Silk Road. The site was used for money laundering and drug trade until the Federal Bureau of Investigation shut it down in 2013. The founder of the site, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested in the same year and has since been serving a life sentence. While the Silk Road was still online, an unnamed individual, referred to as Individual X by the authorities, had been stealing from Ulbricht by manipulating a security loophole in the site.

As of 2020, U.S. federal authorities have seized all the funds in Individual X’s wallet. In 2021, the government signed an agreement with Ulbricht that a portion of the seized Bitcoins would be used to pay the US$183 million in restitution as a part of his sentence.

These are only a few of the many cases of lost Bitcoin fortunes. As of 2021, 20% of all Bitcoin is either lost or in wallets that can no longer be accessed. These stories tell us that privacy and security are a double-edged sword. While the private keys used to access Bitcoin keep them secure, if the user forgets their key, their wallet can become permanently inaccessible. 

Ultimately, it is vital for there to be strong security measures to keep Bitcoin safe. So, all we can do is be careful with our belongings and keep tabs on all our passwords so that we don’t land ourselves in the same situation as Thomas or Howell. 

Also read:

Header image courtesy of Freepik


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email


How To Tap into YouTube As A Small Business Owner

How To Tap into YouTube As A Small Business Owner

Business owners often struggle with boosting website traffic, lowering their bounce rate and converting followers into paying customers. However, many are unaware of the great potential offered by YouTube. Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has established itself as a world-renowned platform for modern media. As per Alexa’s global ranking, YouTube is the second most trafficked website in the world.

Smart Home Gadgets You Need to Try in 2023

Smart Home Gadgets You Need to Try in 2023

Revolutionize the way you live with smart home devices! The smart home industry is booming and for good reason. With the advancements in technology, there are now numerous gadgets and devices available to make your home not only smarter and more convenient but also safer and more energy-efficient.


What Led to Balenciaga’s Recent Scandal?

If you are attuned to the fashion world, you would have heard that Balenciaga has been canceled. This was a result of the problematic advertisements they released in November 2022. These ads featured imagery related to child sexual abuse, showed BDSM motifs in ads featuring children and a whole lot more.

Top 5 Clothing Items That Are Contributing to Skims’ Net Worth

Top 5 Clothing Items That Are Contributing to Skims’ Net Worth

In 2022, American media personality Kim Kardashian’s shapewear brand Skims reached a market capitalization of US$3.2 billion. This massive net worth is a byproduct of a lot of factors, such as Kim’s popularity, the brand’s inclusive size range and adaptability (as we saw during the pandemic) to name a few.

5 Companies That Have Already Announced Job Cuts This Year

Layoffs in 2023: 5 Companies That Have Already Announced Job Cuts This Year

The layoff spree at tech giants is bleeding into a new year. It has been just three weeks since we entered 2023, yet the media is buzzing with disturbing numbers about people being laid off by tech companies: At least 104 tech companies let go more than 26,000 employees. This means, more than 1,600 tech employees were dismissed per day in the past couple of weeks. Let’s take a look at the top tech companies that are laying off aggressively.

Goblin Mode

Decoding the World’s Obsession with “Goblin Mode”

Do you find yourself struggling to maintain a positive and productive attitude at work? Are you becoming increasingly irritable or disengaged from constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience this state of mind, and some turn on their ‌ “goblin mode” to cope with it. The term “goblin mode” gained popularity in February 2022