Confusion Reigns Over Wright’s ‘I Am Satoshi’ Claim

Five months after being outed — and subsequently investigated by police and tax authorities — Craig Steven Wright on Monday stepped forward to claim that he really is the cofounder of bitcoin who operated in secret for years under the name “Satoshi Nakamoto.”

Wright unveiled himself by penning a lengthy blog post and giving extensive interviews to the BBC, The Economist and GQ, apparently in the hope of convincing the world that he is the legitimate founder of bitcoin, a controversial cryptocurrency that has caused head-scratching from Silicon Valley to Wall Street.

“I have been staring at my screen for hours, but I cannot summon the words to express the depth of my gratitude to those who have supported the bitcoin project from its inception — too many names to list,” Wright wrote in the post claiming to authenticate his identity.

Although the persona of “Satoshi” was no more, Wright had much more to give to the community, he continued. He then set about explaining the process of verifying a set of cryptographic keys.

Wright originally was outed in late 2015 by stories published in Wired and Gizmodo. The reports referenced an extensive list of emails, transcripts and other documentation linking Wright to Nakamoto.

Public Support

Wright is who he claims to be, affirmed Gavin Andresen, chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation.

Andresen traveled to London a couple of weeks ago to meet with Wright, in order to authenticate him as the same person he communicated with in 2010 and 2011, Andresen wrote in a blog post.

He is “convinced beyond a reasonable doubt” that Wright is actually Satoshi, Andresen said.

Andresen not only verified through cryptography that Wright signed messages that no one but Satoshi should have possessed, but also recognized in Wright character traits specific to Satoshi.

“We love to create heroes — but also seem to love hating them if they don’t live up to some unattainable ideal,” Andresen wrote. “It would be better if Satoshi Nakamoto was the codename for an NSA project, or an artificial intelligence sent from the future to advance our primitive money. He is not, he is an imperfect human being just like the rest of us.”

The Unconvinced

Wright’s claims have their doubters, including Electronic Frontier Foundation Fellow Joseph Bonneau, a postdoctoral researcher in the Applied Cryptography Group at Stanford University.

“The publicly posted evidence is completely fraudulent and intentionally designed to be deceptive,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The only thing holding Wright’s story together is Andresen’s claim that he privately saw proof of knowledge of cryptographic keys from the early days of bitcoin, Bonneau said, adding that Andresen has a sterling reputation so he would have no reason to participate in a deception.

Still, “why would Wright, if he were Satoshi, post such scammy evidence when legitimate evidence would be easy to post?” he wondered.

Wright either really is Satoshi and wants to destroy Andresen’s reputation while making himself look like a con artist, or Wright is a con artist and Andresen got tricked, maintained Bonneau.

Anyone making such an audacious claim is going to be subjected to a microscopic level of scrutiny, said Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research, but he is nevertheless a bit more accepting of Wright’s story.

“I agree that the evidence Mr. Wright recently presented to the BBC, The Economist and apparently GQ presents a strong circumstantial case that Mr. Wright is bitcoin’s founder,” Tirias told the E-Commerce Times. “However when a founder starts a project with the explicit intent of remaining anonymous, there will always be pieces of the puzzle missing or that can’t be adequately verified.”

What could be much more interesting is why Mr. Teich was “forced” into admitting he was the bitcoin founder, suggested Teich.

The inclusion of GQ is one aspect of the admission tour that looks like it may be a sophisticated publicity stunt, he pointed out.

If the Wright claim is just a ruse, then the real founder of bitcoin is likely to remain out of sight, and out of mind, Tirias said. “In other words, the true founder is extremely unlikely to challenge Mr. Wright’s claims.”

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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