They Cracked the Code to a Locked USB Drive Worth $235 Million in Bitcoin. Then It Got Weird


AT 9:30 AM on a Wednesday in late September, a hacker who asked to be called Tom Smith sent me a nonsensical text message: “query voltage recurrence.”

Those three words were proof of a remarkable feat—and potentially an extremely valuable one. A few days earlier, I had randomly generated those terms, set them as the passphrase on a certain model of encrypted USB thumb drive known as an IronKey S200, and shipped the drive across the country to Smith and his teammates in the Seattle lab of a startup called Unciphered.

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