Find hackers who can help you recover your crypto life savings

Find Hackers Who Can Help You Recover Your Crypto Life Savings

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Guessing a random long Bitcoin wallet password is like winning Powerball 100 times in a row. But there are some good hackers who have made a living doing exactly that.

Two years ago, “Michael” approached a group of white hat hackers with an almost impossible request.

Can you help him hack a ten-year-old Bitcoin wallet with a lost password that now holds $3 million in Bitcoin?

The catch? Michael's lost password is 20 characters long, and since he used a password generator, he has no idea what it could be.

Joe Grand
“No one would take on a compelling project of this scale,” Grand said. (YouTube)

The job was so big that founder, lead hacker and YouTuber Joe Grand turned down the job.

“If we were to try every password combination, that's more than 100 trillion times the number of drops of water in the world,” Grand said in a YouTube video about the matter.

But a year later, in a stroke of luck, Grand and his team found themselves on the road to defying the odds in a big way.

Michael's password generator, Roboform, had a long-patched vulnerability at the time, which relied heavily on the computer's system runtime to generate “random” passwords – meaning the passwords weren't random at all.

After reverse-engineering the algorithm and loading all possible options over the course of seven weeks (that's millions of guesses), Grand and his team finally cracked the wallet and ended up with one very interesting bitcoin holler.

What RoboForm Password Generator looks like today. (RoboForm)

“It was a good thing. It really was,” says the Grand Gazette. However, not every case has a happy ending. Some of the returned wallets were found to be empty.

“It is not a business for the faint of heart. I would honestly say it's not really a job for someone who wants to make a lot of money.

“You know, cryptocurrency people, I think, are going into recovery, thinking they're going to strike it rich, and it's a lot of work,” Grand says.

“It's great if you work on a project where there's a lot of money. […]But for every huge wallet, you have many smaller wallets […] You have to start balancing that time with effort,” he adds.

Grand is a well-known hardware hacker who has testified before Congress about cybersecurity. He is a YouTube personality, former Discovery Channel Prototype host, and public speaker.

So, for Grand, crypto acquisition is more of a “side pursuit” than a full-time commitment.

Brooks and son crypto acquisition team

That's not the case for Chris and Charles Brooks, a father-and-son crypto recovery team in New Hampshire who have been doing crypto asset recovery since late 2020.

The two players claim to have earned up to $6 million worth of bitcoins since their start.

“We're not billionaires or millionaires or anything like that, but it's a good little business,” Chris told the magazine.

Some recent crypto spelunking involves guessing the six letters of the private key left when you remove the holographic sticker from a Cascius coin — a metal-based physical bitcoin discovered for a brief window between 2011 and 2013. Bitcoin, which is worth around $33,000 today, was halved.

In another recent case, a woman from Croatia lost the paper after writing a 24-word genealogy for a hardware bag. She somehow used a pencil shadow to trace most of the seemingly missing words, and the Brooks duo managed to try every possible combination for the remaining words.

Physical Bitcoin RecoveryPhysical Bitcoin Recovery
There are still 18,499 cassius coins and bars still “unopened”. (Stack Bowers Galleries Auction)

“We don't do brute force just because the space is so vast, but when you're missing just a few personal key characters, this […] There's something you can do pretty quickly with some computing power,” Chris said.

But cryptocurrency also has its limits. Brooks and Grand say they have had to turn down many jobs.

Cheaters, cheaters everywhere

“We get dozens of emails a day,” says Grand. “I'd say we're against most of it, and the main issue is the people who got scammed.”

It is highly unlikely that they will get their money back, and we don't want to mislead them and give them a glimmer of hope.

Crypto fraud losses in the US will rise to $3.9 billion by 2023, a year-over-year increase of more than 50%, according to a report by the FBI's Internet Crime Center. The figure accounts for the lion's share of investment fraud committed last year.

Crypto ScamsCrypto Scams
In the year Investment fraud losses in the US in 2023. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

“From 2021 to 2023, we saw that maybe 60% of our inbound leads were fraudulent, and our policy at that point was, ‘We can't do anything,'” Charles added.

Adding insult to injury, many of these customers go to another “crypto acquisition” company – even though they are usually scammers.

“We started seeing the people we approached were getting scammed themselves. So in May of last year, we started very slowly offering fraud detection services to clients,” Charles said.

That service does not include recovering money or intercepting fraudsters.

“Our job is to trace the money from the fraudster's wallet to a real-world entity, which usually doesn't mean a transaction.”

Crypto Investment ScamsCrypto Investment Scams
PSA about scammers to scammers who claim to help them get money from… scammers. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Last August, the FBI issued an official warning about companies falsely claiming to recover money lost in cryptocurrency investment scams.

These scammers typically charge an upfront fee and then submit a horrendous follow-up report demanding additional payments to appease the victim or earn more money.

“Fraudsters may claim to be affiliated with law enforcement or legal services to appear legitimate,” the FBI said:

“Private sector recovery companies cannot issue seizure orders to recover cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency exchanges freeze accounts based on internal procedures or in response to legal process.”

Isn't pretending great?

Meanwhile, Grand has been waging a personal battle with imposters — some who appear to have used deep voice calls to scam others.

“I've had people get scammed by impersonators claiming to have contacted me via voicemail. So maybe they're doing that because my voice is unique in that way.

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When you Google the term “Joe Grand Cryptocurrency” you will find at least one very suspicious looking site that is definitely not legit, so we won't show it here.

“Of course I had to establish a social media presence on every social media platform […] At least one that helps bring people to the actual Joe Grand.

Do you own the wallet?

Sometimes people try to use crypto mining services to access wallets they don't own.

“We've had cases of people telling us they're Satoshi Nakamoto and that they can access the wallet,” Charles said.

“They always seem to find one wallet with a million in it. [in] Bitcoin”

Brute Force Crypto WalletsBrute Force Crypto Wallets
There is a tool on GitHub called I can force crypto wallets. We have no idea if it's legal. (GitHub)

There was a situation where a divorced wife tried to ask for their help to get into her ex-husband's Bitcoin stash.

“We've had people say they were involved in the creation of Bitcoin and it was created by the US military in 2006 or 2007. We cover the spectrum when it comes to crazy stories.”

It's not always about the money

Charles and Chris Brooks stress that while the business can be lucrative, there is more to it than that.

“When you put someone in charge of $500 or $5,000 […] It makes a difference to people, it makes the business interesting.”

According to Brooks, 50%–60% of Crypto Asset Recovery's entry tickets come from economically developed countries that use Bitcoin as a means of saving.

Argentina and Venezuela, among the most inflationary countries in the world, also have high crypto adoption rates.

Joe Grand Crypto AcquisitionJoe Grand Crypto Acquisition
Grand tried to help a Seattle bus driver recover millions in BTC in 2023, but it turned out to be a bust. (YouTube)

“One of our prerogatives is moving to a scale model where we can help people at any price point because for us, a $200 or $300 wallet might not touch the bottom line. […] Those are often impactful cases because that's where you see people's lives being saved,” Brooks said.

Grand says the same goes for him.

He added: “It doesn't mean we don't make money on a deal, but we don't.”

“Money, the value of money is different for different people. […] And yes, that's part of it, as well as being able to change people's lives.”

“I didn't think about that when we started helping… To see people's eyes really light up when we succeed for them […] Those are special moments that are hard to describe,” says Grand.

Felix NgFelix Ng

Felix Ng

Felix Ng first started writing about the blockchain industry through the lens of a gambling industry journalist and editor in 2015. Since then, he has moved on to cover the blockchain space full-time. He is very interested in innovative blockchain technology aimed at solving real-world challenges.

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