A CEO Died. He Never Shared His Passwords. Now His Customers Are Out $190 Million That Can’t Be Accessed
Password security is so important oh wait, oh man this is a problem.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Sometimes, I've kicked myself. Why didn't I get into cryptocurrency?
And then I remember -- it's not just the market crashing. It's because 20 percent of all bitcoin can't be accessed because people have lost their passwords. A burgeoning industry of hypnotists and brute force hackers make good money trying to access inaccessible money--taking as much as a fifth of what they find.
Still, I have a friend who made close to $1 million selling bitcoin at just the right time. It's a volatile world, but I wonder if I missed out by not being part of it.
Then I come across a story like what happened to a Canadian crypto exchange after its CEO died -- died, that is, without ever sharing his passwords with anyone.
Net result: he reportedly left a total of $190 million completely inaccessible.
The CBC broke the story, after Gerald Cotten, CEO of crypto exchange QuadrigaCX, died (as his company put it): "due to complications with Crohn's disease" while on a trip to India in December.
Of course it's tragic when a 30-year-old man passes away unexpectedly. But adding to the story is that as the CBC reported, his widow has his encrypted laptop in her possession--but neither she nor a company they hired to try to hack the passwords has been able to figure it out.
As Gizmodo summarized, QuadrigaCX therefore "cannot repay most of $190 million in client holdings," since Cotten was the only person who could access the money.
In a sworn affidavit with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, widow Jennifer Robertson said that QuadrigaCX owes its customers some $190 million in both cryptocurrency and fiat money.
QuadrigaCX has filed for creditor protection because it says it cannot access the funds stored in "cold storage," just the comparatively smaller amount in a "hot wallet" used for transfers ...
As you might imagine, the whole situation has led to theories that Cotten might not be dead after all. The company's Facebook page is rife with speculation, although Canada's version of the State Department confirms Cotten did actually die in India as reported.
Now QuadrigaCX is in court in Canada trying to protect itself from creditors.
And its cryto investors are wishing they'd kept their money in boring old mutual funds and bank accounts.
"This is a tough lesson learned," investor Elvis Cavalic of Calgary, Alberta told the CBE, after he realized he couldn't withdraw his investment. "I would probably avoid [cryptocurrency] in the future. They've left us completely in the dark. I'm kind of preparing for the worst."