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Major questions arise over Craig Wright’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto

TechCrunch TechCrunch 2/05/2016 Mike Butcher

The tech community is currently poring scorn on the news that Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright has revealed himself to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. They say the story does not add up, given that his ‘proof’ could simply be an old signature signed by Satoshi and what was previously known about how the Bitcoin inventor operated in the past. Wright has previously been named as Satoshi but denied it at the time.

Wright openly gave the story to three media outlets in order that they might verify his claim the BBC, The Economist and — somewhat unusually — men’s lifestyle magazine GQ.

The BBC is claiming the news “ends years of speculation about who came up with the original ideas underlying the digital cash system”, and say “prominent members of the Bitcoin community and its core development team” have confirmed Mr Wright’s claim. Gavin Andresen, chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, has published a blog post backing the claim. And Jon Matonis, an economist and one of the founding directors of the Bitcoin Foundation, says he is convinced Wright is who he claims to be.

However, threads on Hacker News and Reddit are currently piling on evidence that throws doubt on the claim. Furthermore there are even claims that Andresen was potentially hacked.

At the meeting with the BBC, Mr Wright digitally signed messages using cryptographic keys created during the early days of Bitcoin’s development. These keys are supposedly linked to blocks of bitcoins known to have been created or “mined” by Satoshi Nakamoto.

Hacker News points out that the signature in Wright’s post has been “pulled straight from a transaction on the blockchain.” Wright has so far not released any actual cryptographic proof, only that the BBC has seen a verifying signature. In other words, the signature could have been signed months or years ago and it’s very hard to prove otherwise.

The Hacker News thread says the genuine Satoshi usually only interacted with the Bitcoin community the Bitcoin mailing list, and could therefore have simply sent one email to reveal his or her true identity.

Over on Reddit, Wright has provided a signature of a speech by Sartre with the public key of the coinable Satoshi was previously known to use to Hal Finney, one of the earliest Bitcoin developers. However, the signed text does not contain either Craig’s name nor the current date, implying that while the true Satoshi could have signed the text, Wright may have come into possession of the signature he is presenting to the media as proof.

The Economist is the only media outlet to so far reserve final judgement.

The original Satoshi Nakamoto is believed to hold about one million Bitcoins, equivalent to $450m in cash. If Wright does indeed hold this amount, then he could be investigated by Australian tax authorities. In which case a public campaign to garner sympathy could come in very handy indeed.

Meanwhile, a fisking over on Github calls Wright’s claim “flimflam and hokum which stands up to a few minutes of cursory scrutiny, and demonstrates a competent sysadmin’s level of familiarity with cryptographic tools, but ultimately demonstrates no non-public information about Satoshi.”

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