When it comes to crypto, hackers have earned a bad reputation after multiple thefts of assets worth millions of dollars. However, it is not always that hackers steal crypto, as one did help Dan Reich recover million-dollars worth of cryptocurrency from a hardware wallet.
Reich had purchased Theta tokens worth $50,000, pegged at 21 cents apiece in 2018 with a friend. However, due to an impending crackdown by the Chinese government, the pair decided to move their asset to a hardware wallet so as not to lose access to it. They got a Trezor One hardware wallet with a carefully selected PIN to house their precious commodity.
As cryptos are wont to do, Theta would rise, fall, rise, fall, repeat the process while Reich and his friend went about their lives. Reich would later decide to sell off his crypto, but unfortunately, the friend had misplaced the sheet of paper on which he wrote down the PIN.
After a dozen attempts at guessing the PIN, with the waiting time increasing, Reich and his friend had to
stop because the wallet would wipe out the data on it. At this point, Reich was ready to write off the investment.
However, Theta rallied and began to shoot up. From a low of $12,000, Reich’s investment would become worth more than $3 million. This proved too much for Reich and his friend to let go, and they returned to find a way to crack open the wallet.
Cryptos lost in this way, or similar are not uncommon. Cryptocurrency-related firm Chainanalysis estimates that Bitcoins worth over $65 billion have been lost. Reasons include the hardware storing, the crypto crashing or getting stolen, owners mistakenly discarding their hardware, etc. Some owners even die without informing surviving members of the assets.
Reich and his friend got online in their search for a solution. They eventually located three hardware experts who once discussed cracking open a Trezor wallet without the PIN at a conference. However, the trio refused to help out.
Eventually, the duo got in touch with a Swiss who claimed to have associates in France that could access the crypto. However, the offer came with some risky conditions. Reich would not contact the team or even know their names. He won’t even be allowed near their lab in France. Reich was desperate enough to agree to the dangerous conditions.
However, Covid slowed down Reich’s preparations to go to Europe. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Reich and his friend got another hardware hack that lives in the US, Joe Grand.
Grand has been involved in hacking since he was a 10-year-old. He has actually risen in profile in the hacking community and has some inventions to his name. He is known as Kingpin and has testified before the US Senate on a vulnerability that could crash the internet. With Reich’s background as an electrical engineer and owner of a software company, he quickly realized they had found the right man for the job.
Despite Grand’s pedigree, both parties agreed to proceed with caution. They decided the hacking attempt would go on only after Grand had cracked open three other Trezor wallets running the same firmware, using the same technique.
Grand had some help as another hacker based in the UK had helped a journalist access his own haul of bitcoin worth $30,000. But it would take a combination of the UK hacker’s method and the three experts that declined to assist’s method for Grand to get the PIN to the wallet.
Reich and his friend had several tense moments, but the story had a happy ending with Grand getting a cut of the crypto. Grand even said the experience, filmed by a professional crew, helped him decide to go into hunting and reporting vulnerabilities in wallets, apart from assisting other people like Reich regain access to their assets.
Source: The Verge