An Australian IT researcher and businessman is claimingto be the creator of digital currency Bitcoin, but analysis of his claims suggested the real identity of the individual or group who formerly used the name Satoshi Nakamoto is now murkier than ever.
Craig Wright suggested in a blog post on Monday that he was Nakamoto, the unknown person who carried out the initial research underlying Bitcoin and who ended his involvement in the currency in 2011.
In the blog post he provided a cryptographic signature that’s among those known to have been used by Nakamoto.
Separately, Wright told the BBC that he created Bitcoin. “I was the main part of it, other people helped me,” Wright told the BBC. “Some people will believe, Some people won’t, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really care.”
Gavin Andresen, whom Nakamoto chose to succeed him as chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, supported Wright’s claim in a blog post of his own.
He said his conclusion was based on a visit to London, where Wright lives, and “a careful cryptographic verification of messages signed with keys that only Satoshi should possess”.
Jon Matonis, a founding director of the Bitcoin Foundation who is now an independent consultant, also said in a blog post he believes Wright’s proof is “conclusive”.
But others said nothing concrete had been offered, and noted that earlier reports linking Wright to Bitcoin had been discredited.
Security researcher Dan Kaminsky called Wright’s statement a “scam”, and noted that the signature provided was in fact taken from the Bitcoin blockchain, to which anyone has access.
“It’s a hash extracted from the Blockchain itself,” he wrote. “The Blockchain is totally public and of course has signatures from Satoshi, so Wright being able to lift a signature from here isn’t surprising at all. He probably would have gotten away with it if the signature itself wasn’t googlable… I think Gavin et al are victims of another scam, and Wright’s done classic misdirection by generating different scams for different audiences.”
Parallel reports in December of last year by Wired and Gizmodo produced circumstantial evidence suggesting that Wright was Bitcoin’s inventor, but subsequent reporting cast doubt upon the evidence upon which those reports had been based, while also indicating that Wright had falsely claimed certain academic credentials, such as a PhD in theology by Charles Sturt University (CSU) that CSU denied having awarded.
That PhD was, ironically, supposed to have been on the subject of obscure origins, having the title “Gnarled roots of a creation theory”. Wright also claimed to have been an “adjunct lecturer” at CSU, but the university later stated he was only an “adjunct academic” carrying out unpaid academic work. The LinkedIn page on which it and other qualifications were listed was later deleted.
Wired concluded that the new details “point to a hoaxer who may have planted clues of his purported bitcoin creation”.
Wright was the chief executive of an Australian firm that used Bitcoin and founded a digital currency company and a computer security company in Australia, as well as completing a number of academic degrees, according to reports.
Some involved with Bitcoin argued Satoshi’s identity no longer matters to Bitcoin, which is based on an open source protocol that can’t be controlled by any single individual or organisation.
“It’s not clear to me that if Craig Wright is Satoshi, or if it’s someone else, that this is relevant to Bitcoin these days,” Dr Garrick Hileman, an economic historian at the London School of Economics who has studied Bitcoin’s genesis, told the BBC.
Bitcoin has become the world’s most commonly used virtual currency, and its underlying technologies have attracted interest in the worlds of finance, technology and government.
Last week IBM introduced a system that allows blockchain networks to operate securely, aiming it at sectors including government, financial services and healthcare.
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