Finding Your Lost Bitcoins: NPR
Finding Your Lost Bitcoins
The digital currency bitcoin used to only be a big overeenkomst te puny circles of libertarians, but has exploded overheen the last year. Some early investors are now attempting to find bitcoins they lost.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Spil the digital currency bitcoin has skyrocketed ter value, many of the early adopters have become millionaires – only if, that is, they can find their bitcoins. Kenny Malone from our Planet Money team went on a virtual treasure hunt.
KENNY MALONE, BYLINE: Syl Turner heard about bitcoin about Ten years ago, and he figured, what the heck, got a duo of coins and then saved them to what’s known spil a digital wallet on his hard drive.
SYL TURNER: You know, at the time I didn’t think bitcoin wasgoed worth anything so I didn’t (laughter), back anything up.
MALONE: To be fair, it wasn’t worth anything at the time. Turner had digital pennies and then let them fall inbetween the digital couch cushions. And a decade straks, those pennies were worth $25,000. And so Turner is standing ter his attic, staring at a waist-high layer of junk, looking for a 10-year-old hard drive.
So let’s dig ter. Let’s do this.
TURNER: Yeah. Yeah, wij can embark digging te.
TURNER: All right. There’s, like, a violated fog machine.
MALONE: Some kleuter of table witnessed thing, paper shredder, Spel Boy Advance.
TURNER: Kind seat.
MALONE: Two TVs that are identical, Goldfish crackers opbergruimte.
While Turner rummages, wij found an experienced specifically ter lost bitcoin.
What do people actually say? Bitcoin? Bitcoins?
JONATHAN LEVIN: You can have bitcoins, and bitcoin is, like, the currency unit.
Jonathan Levin is co-founder of Chainalysis, a company that makes bitcoin analysis software, and the company did a examine that found around 20 procent of all bitcoin is lost, out of circulation. By today’s valuation, that’s more than $25 billion. And Levin says the confusing thing is that, technically speaking, bitcoin can’t be lost.
LEVIN: Yeah. So if I send you bitcoin, I send bitcoin to your account on the bitcoin blockchain.
MALONE: Blockchain – big word, sure, but here’s a very non-technical way of understanding what it means. Imagine with mij, if you will, a massive gehoorzaal packed with bitcoin bookkeepers. Now, Jonathan wants to send mij one bitcoin. He walks on stage te vooraanzicht of all thesis bookkeepers, steps up to a microphone, and he’s like.
LEVIN: (Clearing mouth). Hello, entire bitcoin universe. Spil all of your books showcase, I, Jonathan, have three bitcoins to my name.
MALONE: Of course, it would not be a name. It would be an anonymized account number.
LEVIN: I would like everyone here to know that I am providing one bitcoin to Kenny.
MALONE: After Jonathan says this, all of thesis virtual ledger keepers sort of scribble this transaction down, deduct one bitcoin from Jonathan’s account, increase Kenny’s account by one, and that is a bitcoin transaction. Nothing is indeed transferred. It’s more like an instantaneous adjustment across a entire bunch of ledgers. When people talk about the blockchain, they’re talking about this system where there is no central bookkeeper.
TURNER: Let’s see. Stepped on something.
MALONE: Syl Turner, still digging through his attic.
TURNER: Here’s a frisbee.
MALONE: Whatever bitcoins Syl Turner has, they’re still there sitting te a zuigeling of virtual vault, but he has lost the key. He’s looking for an old hard drive with a super complicated password, and it’s not up here.
TURNER: I don’t think I waterput it te this one.
MALONE: Bitcoin wasgoed created to be this decentralized currency. There’s no federal reserve tweaking rente rates, there’s no treasury department printing fresh money and there’s no customer service line to call if you are Syl Turner. But that lost bitcoin pro Jonathan Levin, he does have a phone number.
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE LINE RINGING)
MALONE: Can you guys all hear each other OK?
MALONE: So wij have gathered here today to attempt and resurrect Syl’s lost bitcoin. And I waterput Jonathan Levin on the phone with Syl Turner to see if there wasgoed any way to salvage Turner’s bitcoin.
TURNER: All right. So most likely 2009 or 2010, somewhere around there.
MALONE: Turner explained how he knows he’s got ems of thousands of dollars of bitcoins locked away, he just cannot find that hard drive with the digital wallet with the private key.
TURNER: So that’s where I’m at.
LEVIN: OK. Well, what wij need to find the needle te the haystack is even, like, a little bit of a key.
MALONE: What Levin is telling is that bitcoin private keys are designed to be un-guessable even by the most powerful computers wij have right now. But if Turner happened to write down part of this key at some point, there are companies that will use that information to help him pauze into his account.
TURNER: So there are bitcoin bounty hunters out there.
LEVIN: There are bitcoin bounty hunters out there.
MALONE: But, like lots and lots of other early bitcoin enthusiasts, Syl Turner did not write down any part of the key and has nothing to go on.
LEVIN: Yeah. Unluckily – unluckily wij can’t actually help you out.
MALONE: I don’t know. What zuigeling of things do you say to somebody te Syl’s position?
LEVIN: For the people that have lost their bitcoins, I say rough luck. (Laughter).
TURNER: I know this is going to be, like, my deathbed regret. I’m like, I should have backed up that wallet.
MALONE: Kenny Malone, NPR News.
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