As an industry, cryptocurrency is still fairly nascent and not well understood by many. None can deny, however, that it is lucrative, to the point where companies like Atari are making their own.
Easily the most well known and successful cryptocurrency as of this article is Bitcoin. Introduced 10 years ago, Bitcoin represents the unification of several dedicated servers engaged in complex encryption, creating a virtual currency designed to be in the hands of individuals, not organizations. Since then, the value of Bitcoin has fluctuated a lot, with enormous highs and dipping lows, though it’s worth much more now than when it was created. However, people “being their own banks” has not worked out for everyone, including one man who cannot access a stash of Bitcoin worth millions.
The man, a programmer named Stefan Thomas, was originally paid 7,002 Bitcoin for, appropriately enough, creating a video explaining how Bitcoin works. This was 10 years ago, and that same year he lost the password to the virtual lockbox the Bitcoin is stored in. Now, years later, that Bitcoin is worth a staggering $240 million, and Thomas is running out of options to get in. Those numbers may make it understandable why hacked Call of Duty accounts were ransomed for Bitcoin recently, rather than other forms of currency.
The appeal of Bitcoin for many is that it is squarely in its owner’s hands, rather than held by a bank, other corporation, or government. As Thomas’ case shows however, this comes with its own set of problems. Tales of people being locked out of their own Bitcoin stash are far from uncommon, although Tomas’ is particularly painful due to the huge amount of money at stake. It is for this privacy reason that Bitcoin is also popular with criminals. Evidence of this is obvious in the major Twitter hack for Bitcoin that took place recently.
Bitcoin has become so valuable as a (relatively) safe form of currency that new methods of getting and safely storing it are lucrative and often dubiously legal (if at all). While it was later debunked, some suspected that Cooking Mama: Cookstar was mining Bitcoin as it played.
Still, Bitcoin is a relatively young concept, as is cryptocurrency in general, and new aspects of it as an industry are still being discovered. Companies specializing in retrieving lost passcodes and keys are already springing up, and there’s even a Visa card offering Bitcoin rewards now. At some point Bitcoin will probably become something more steady and predictable and, to avoid situations like Thomas’, possibly with more safety nets in place. For now though, Thomas’ situation, as well as the situation for others involved in Bitcoin, remains painfully uncertain.
Source: New York Times