Craig Wright Claims He’s Bitcoin Creator Satoshi — Experts Fear An Epic Scam

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Craig Wright Satoshi Nakamoto Bitcoin creator claim
Craig Wright claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Some have claimed his proofs don’t add up… yet.

We may never know the true identity the real Satoshi Nakamoto. Australian academic Craig Wright has reportedly confirmed himself as the Bitcoin creator, signing messages with cryptographic keys said to solely belong to Satoshi in private sessions with a handful of media organizations and community luminaries. But within minutes of Wright’s claims being published, encryption experts have expressed doubt.

In late 2015, Australian academic Wright was outed by Gawker and Wired as the most likely candidate for the true Satoshi. After analysing leaked emails and having traced Wright to his residence in Australia before he disappeared, it appeared he was indeed the original Bitcoin developer. But many later suggested there was no proof and that he had perpetrated an elaborate hoax.

But in a strange, rambling blog released today, Wright posted some limited information, including what readers believed to be the result of cryptographically signing a slice of text from existentialist philosopher Jean-Peal Sartre. The cryptographic representation of that signed text, the blog indicated (though didn’t specifically state), could only have been the result of signing with Satoshi’s original key. According to the BBC, he will reveal more public information in the future.

Backing up Wright’s claims were two significant members of the Bitcoin community: founding director at Bitcoin Foundation and CEO of Hushmail Jon Matonis, and chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation Gavin Andresen. Both were flown to London to meet Wright and be shown the cryptographic proofs, namely the signing of messages with a private key that most likely belonged to Satoshi (the key could have been stolen).

“During the London proof sessions, I had the opportunity to review the relevant data along three distinct lines: cryptographic, social, and technical. Based on what I witnessed, it is my firm belief that Craig Steven Wright satisfies all three categories,” wrote Matonis.

“For cryptographic proof in my presence, Craig signed and verified a message using the private key from block #1 newly-generated coins and from block #9 newly-generated coins (the first transaction to Hal Finney). The social evidence, including his unique personality, early emails that I received, and early drafts of the Bitcoin white paper, points to Craig as the creator.”

Doubt about Satoshi

Other onlookers have noted problems with the publicly-available evidence, in particular the apparent proof from Wright’s own blog. Redditors pointed out that whilst Wright claimed to produce a signed piece of Sartre text, he actually just published the cryptographic representation of a 2009 transaction that took place on the Blockchain, the public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions.

“His blog proves very little. He claims to be displaying proof that he has the private key for some early transactions – principally I think he is claiming the first to Hal Finney – but no one seems to be able to decode the key to prove it independently,” said Professor Alan Woodward WWD -1.78%, a cryptography expert from the University of Surrey, UK. “The obvious way to prove his identity would be to do a transaction (only needs to be tiny) from the original stash – possession of keys isn’t really conclusive but such a transaction would be visible to the entire world. It’s that which makes me sceptical.”

Peter Todd, a core Bitcoin developer, said the “proof” was “like photocopying someone else’s signature on a publicly available document and claiming it’s proof you are them”. “Because the proof provided is non-existent, and Craig has a history of scams, this could simply be part of a bigger scam.”

Emin Gün Sirer, associate professor at Cornell and cryptocurrency expert, agreed the information provided by Wright was far from conclusive, suspecting “a deliberate attempt to deceive”. “I’m still waiting for cryptographic proof,” he added. “Even with cryptographic proof, there’s still the possibility that the real Satoshi’s keys may have been compromised or reverse engineered.”

Doubts had already emerged when Wright was originally linked to Satoshi. Not only did it appear he altered now-deleted blog posts to insert evidence of his involvement in Bitcoin, he also seemed to have told fibs on his LinkedIn profile, saying he had been given a PhD from Sydney’s Charles Sturt University (CSU), which later said he hadn’t. His Cloudcroft business claimed to have had relationships with supercomputer providers that denied any connection to Wright.

He has promised his only interview will be with the BBC, which is currently sharing information with experts to further determine the validity of Wright’s claims. The Economist and GQ also had access to Wright ahead of the big reveal today.

What now?

Wright may soon provide more evidence to the wider world, rather than a select group of publications. All Wright needs to do, says Todd, is to provide a signature on the message “Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto” signed by a key known to be Satoshi’s.

“This is really easy to do… if you’re actually Satoshi. Also, you’ll know sufficient proof has been provided when it actually happens, because cryptographers will be convinced.”

Wright isn’t bothered what people believe, however, telling the BBC: “Some people will believe, some people won’t. And to tell you the truth, I don’t really care.” He said the decision to come out as Nakamoto was made for him, ostensibly by the media, who had made the lives of his family and coworkers difficult.

“I don’t want money, I don’t want fame, I don’t want adoration. I just want to be left alone… I will never, ever be on camera ever again.”

Tips and comments are welcome at TFox-Brewster@forbes.com or tbthomasbrewster@gmail.com for PGP mail. Get me on Twitter @iblametom and tfoxbrewster@jabber.hot-chilli.net for Jabber encrypted chat.

In late 2015, Australian academic Wright was outed by Gawker and Wired as the most likely candidate for the true Satoshi. After analysing leaked emails and having traced Wright to his residence in Australia before he disappeared, it appeared he was indeed the original Bitcoin developer. But many later suggested there was no proof and that he had perpetrated an elaborate hoax.

But in a strange, rambling blog released today, Wright posted some limited information, including what readers believed to be the result of cryptographically signing a slice of text from existentialist philosopher Jean-Peal Sartre. The cryptographic representation of that signed text, the blog indicated (though didn’t specifically state), could only have been the result of signing with Satoshi’s original key. According to the BBC, he will reveal more public information in the future.

Backing up Wright’s claims were two significant members of the Bitcoin community: founding director at Bitcoin Foundation and CEO of Hushmail Jon Matonis, and chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation Gavin Andresen . Both were flown to London to meet Wright and be shown the cryptographic proofs, namely the signing of messages with a private key that most likely belonged to Satoshi (the key could have been stolen).

“During the London proof sessions, I had the opportunity to review the relevant data along three distinct lines: cryptographic, social, and technical. Based on what I […]

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