Former Wired editor Mark Frauenfelder wrote his password on an orange piece of paper in January 2017. In March, he and his wife jetted off to Tokyo for vacation. A month after returning from vacation, he noticed his orange slip was nowhere to be found. The house cleaner he hired while on vacation had apparently thrown away the piece of paper.
Unperturbed, he typed in the password from memory and received this message: Wrong PIN entered.
After three more fruitless tries, a countdown timer appeared on the screen, which made him wait a few seconds before he could try another PIN.
However, the delay doubled every time the wrong PIN was entered. From April to August, Frauenfelder tried hacking into his vault, to no avail.
One day, he received an email from the vault's manufacturer explaining that the security was being updated. Per the email, there was a security vulnerability within the vault system that needed fixing. Frauenfelder reached out to a bitcoin expert who put him in contact with a 15-year-old coding whiz who could give him video instructions on how to exploit the vulnerability and hack the vault.
After agreeing to pay the teenager the equivalent of $3,700 in bitcoin, he received instructions that would hack his computer and show him the password.
"Following Saleem's instructions, I copied a string of text," he writes for Wired. "The PIN appeared instantly. Months of soul-crushing anxiety fell away like big clods of mud that had been clinging to my shoulders."
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