In 2014, I bought 25,000 dogecoin as a joke. By 2021, it was briefly worth over $17,000. Problem was, I couldn’t remember the password. Determined to get my coins back, I embarked on a journey that exposed me to online hackers, the mathematics behind passwords, and a lot of frustration.
Although most people don’t have thousands in forgotten cryptocurrency, everyone relies on passwords to manage their digital lives. And as more and more people buy crypto, how can they protect their assets? We talked to a host of experts to figure out how to create the best passwords for your digital accounts, and, if you have crypto, what your basic storage tradeoffs are. Let’s dive in.
How to Hack Your Own Crypto Wallet
There are a few common ways to lose crypto. You might have a wallet on a hard drive you throw away. Your exchange could get hacked. You might lose your password, or you might get personally hacked and have your coins stolen. For those who lose their password, as I did, hackers actually present a silver lining. If you still control your wallet, you can try to hack your own wallet—or find someone who will.
So I contacted Dave Bitcoin, an anonymous hacker famous for cracking crypto wallets. He agreed to help break into the wallet, for his standard 20 percent fee—paid only if he is successful. Dave and other hackers are mostly using brute force techniques. Basically, they’re just guessing passwords—a lot of them.
After a little waiting, I received an email from Dave. “I tried over 100 billion passwords on your wallet,” Dave told me over em...