Author Topic: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive  (Read 1666 times)

Piper

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Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« on: October 10, 2018, 05:17:55 AM »
I could use some advice. My husband passed away a year and a half ago. He mined bitcoins, which are saved on a USB flash drive requiring a password to open the drive and another password to open the bitcoin file.

I am sole beneficiary of the estate; therefore, the bitcoins are legally mine. But how do I get to them? Is there a company that can break through these securities since it's legal?

Thank you!

2Cent

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2018, 05:57:24 AM »
If it's properly encrypted I think you're out of luck. With a generated password there will be so many combinations that it will take a few lifetimes to calculate. Your best bet is searching if your husband didn't write the password down somewhere. A random generated password will be hard to memorize.

If not is there a limit to the number of attempts to guess the password? Then you could attack it with a rainbow table or just brute force it and hope you get lucky.

Was there a lot of money on it. If he was just mining with his own PC and started after 2013 I don't think it will be worth the effort. With your husband being a crypto currency enthousiast, I am not optimistic though, as he will no doubt be aware of cryptography and what is a secure system.

maizeman

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2018, 06:00:18 AM »
I could use some advice. My husband passed away a year and a half ago. He mined bitcoins, which are saved on a USB flash drive requiring a password to open the drive and another password to open the bitcoin file.

I am sole beneficiary of the estate; therefore, the bitcoins are legally mine. But how do I get to them? Is there a company that can break through these securities since it's legal?

Unfortunately the answer is likely no. Depending on how the USB flash drive is protected (strong encryption vs just a software password prompt) you may be able to find someone who can break into that. But if the bitcoin's private key is itself encrypted and your late husband didn't document the password anywhere or store a hard copy of his private key anywhere there likely isn't any way to circumvent the need for the password.

It might be worth listening to this episode of "Reply All" https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/115-bitcoin-hunter as it describes some other cases where it might be possible to retrieve the private key that would allow you to spend those bitcoins from a source other than the flash drive.

I'm sorry I cannot offer better advice.

Piper

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2018, 09:32:00 AM »
Thank you so much maizeman and 2Cent for your replies.

There are a lot of bitcoins on there. A significant amount for sure. At one point, valued at $400k. :/ :( Just typing that number out gives me a pit in my stomach. I know bitcoin values are down from that but still significant to me. UGH!

I will definitely check out the "Reply All" episode and keep on trying! Rainbow table and brute force are now on my "TO TRY" list.

Again, I appreciate it!

tyler2016

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2018, 09:57:03 AM »
A few questions and suggestions.

What do you mean by the drive has a password? Is it encrypted or is it just a password check thing? I wouldn't attempt to guess without making a copy of the drive first in case the SW overwrites it with garbage or does some kind of factory reset on X incorrect attempts.

Did your husband leave behind a notebook or password manager file? If so, make a copy of the drive with something like dd (the command line tool), and try every password in the manager or notebook.

You could also try something like John the Ripper with a sufficiently large word list. This will take some technical ability, but if he didn't use a password manager or a unique pass phrase, there is some hope John can crack it.

Check the  manuals for the drive and Bitcoin wallet to see if there are any defaults.

Search his computer for files that may have it. A password protected office document is easy to open without the password. An encrypted one depends on how strong of a password they used.

HamsterStache

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MrSal

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2018, 12:51:28 PM »
At least you have the disk ...

I had bitcoins in 2009, and completely forgot about them.

I havent found them anywhere. Probably lost from my formatting of a drive or something. I value them at somewhere around 4-19 Million that I "lost" judging from the value of bitcoin to when I purchased them back in 2009

clifp

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2018, 12:56:32 PM »
For $400K, (probably closer to $200K now) I'd say it is worth finding some hacker/cryptocurrency expert and offering a reward say 20%-30% of whatever they recover to go through your husbands computers and phones looking for some clues, along with trying to brute force the password.

Syonyk

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2018, 10:19:46 PM »
I could use some advice. My husband passed away a year and a half ago. He mined bitcoins, which are saved on a USB flash drive requiring a password to open the drive and another password to open the bitcoin file.

Unfortunately, the answer is "probably not, unless either the passwords or short, or you know an awful lot about them."

If it's something like an IronKey (hardware encrypted USB drive), they literally self destruct after a few attempts - it's their whole point.  So without knowing the password, no hope.

If it's an encrypted volume on a USB drive, you can try it as much as you want, but tries tend to be quite expensive (time-wise) to deter exactly that sort of attack.

And the Bitcoin software does a pretty darn good job of protecting the wallet password - again, a lot of time per attempt.

If you know anything about the passwords, and there's relatively low uncertainty, it's possible.  If you have access to, say, all his other passwords, variations on those could be tried fairly cheaply to see if they work.

But if you know nothing about it, sadly, you're unlikely to get results for the value of the BTC involved.

I know people who work in this realm and have the hardware to engage in such attempts, but without a lot of knowledge about the password, it's quite unlikely to be successful.

Piper

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Re: Bitcoins locked on USB flash drive
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2018, 10:21:42 AM »
It sounds like I have some options, which is nice. I will try! I know some of his passwords so I can try those after making a copy.

MrSal - oh my gosh My heart bleeds for you. Ugh!!

Thanks again everyone. I will work on these options with friends who have more experience than I do with this subject matter. I'd definitely be willing to pay someone 20% or whatever to bust this open.

I'll keep you posted!