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Craig Wright claims he is bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto

Peter Sayer | May 3, 2016
Wright, first outed as Satoshi in December, has offered what he claims is digital proof of his double identity

Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright is bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, he claimed on his personal blog and in media interviews on Monday. Within hours, skeptics were pointing to flaws in his claims.

Wright was first outed as the developer of the cryptocurrency by Wired magazine in December, but would not confirm the magazine's claims at the time. Days later the magazine said fresh evidence pointed to another possibility it had raised: that Wright may be a sophisticated hoaxer.

But Wright really is Satoshi, he has claimed in interviews with the BBC, The Economist and GQ -- but not Wired.

The BBC backed his claim enthusiastically, headlining it "Craig Wright revealed as Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto." The Economist was more measured: "Craig Steven Wright claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Is he?"

Many readers are even more skeptical, but that's something Wright is resigned to.

"Some people will believe, some people won't, and to tell the truth, I don't really care," Wright said in a video interview with the BBC.

Satoshi's identity has been shrouded in mystery in the years since he withdrew from bitcoin development. His reappearance now could influence the future direction of bitcoin, including a key debate about the size of blocks in the blockchain

Wright posted instructions on his personal blog on Monday on how to verify the validity of a digital signature -- and implied that a gobbledygook-looking string of text -- "IFdyaWdodCwgaXQgaXMgbm90IHRoZSBzYW1lIGFzIGlmIEkgc2lnbiBDcmFpZyBXcmlnaHQsIFNhdG9zaGkuCgo=" -- was a digitally signed message with a signature matching the private encryption key used to sign the ninth block of the bitcoin blockchain, thus proving that he is the technology's inventor.

However, a number of people are already disputing whether Wright's blog post proves anything at all.

The mysterious string of text is not a digital signature at all, they say, but merely a Base-64 encoding of the end of an earlier paragraph in the blog post: "Wright, it is not the same as if I sign Craig Wright, Satoshi."

Furthermore, say others, the encryption key linked to Satoshi that Wright uses is already publicly known as it is contained in the ninth block. Anyone with some knowledge of cryptography could have performed the same demonstration, they say.

In his video interview with the BBC, Wright himself betrays this: "I am about to demonstrate the signing of a message with the public key that is associated with the first transaction ever done on bitcoin," he says. But in fact, it is the private key of a public-private key pair that is used to sign a message.

Any signature associated with the ninth block of the bitcoin blockchain is significant because it contained a transaction transferring bitcoins from Satoshi to the late Hal Finney, a cryptographer and early bitcoin enthusiast.

 

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