It reads like a sci-fi book: Young, successful entrepreneur creates revolutionary company that invests in a new, digitally traded cryptocurrency, and dies suddenly without telling anyone the password to access the special ‘cold wallet’ that holds the funds.
This actually happened. Gerald Cotton, the 30-year-old CEO and co-founder of Quadriga, died suddenly while on a humanitarian excursion to India. When he died, the password to access the digital currency died with him.
They have been unable to break into his encrypted laptop or determine the password and investors have been left in a precarious situation.
Apparently, the funds were stored in a “cold wallet,” which is a place you can save information and data offline where it is safe from hackers and similar ilk. A very simple version of a cold wallet is a good ol’ fashioned USB key. Quadriga’s cold wallet was accessible from Mr. Cotton’s personal laptop, which remains locked with an unknown virtual key.
Can you imagine? It confounds me that someone who obviously has higher intelligence (he must have been smart as he co-founded a company that invested in an invisible currency) would not have a safeguard in place in the event that he met an untimely demise. Perhaps a sticky note that he stuck in the top drawer of his desk at the very back with the password clearly written?
I am certain they must have the very best hackers working on his laptop trying to unlock the wallet. The password is probably not as simple as his mother’s maiden name or his birthdate typed in reverse. It is no doubt some long string of symbols and numbers that have created an unbreakable combination.
In the movies they would simply hook the laptop up to a supercomputer that would continuously try random passwords until the code was broken. Then, Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford would grab the laptop and flee whilst mercenaries shot at their feet, the bullets ricocheting off the concrete walls of the bunker.
Alas, this is not the movies but rather a bad dream that is becoming a nightmare for the executives from Quadriga.
Us mere mortals can suffer the same problem. How many of us can only unlock our smart phone with our fingerprint?
Be assured that when you pass away, the following will occur: Your partner will visit the funeral home under the guise of “one last look at the departed” but will instead reach into the casket, grab your hand, and carefully place your fingertip on your iPhone just so they can access your Facebook account.
Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes. Follow her @judylaine