Both Wired and Gizmodo have claimed to have discovered the identity of “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the anonymous creator of Bitcoin. Unlike previous attempts at identifying the Bitcoin creator, the story is backed by a mound of convincing evidence, which points to an Australian man named Craig Steven Wright.
“We still can’t say with absolute certainty that the mystery is solved,” write Andy Greenberg and Gwern Branwen in their report for Wired. “But two possibilities outweigh all others: Either Wright invented bitcoin, or he’s a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did.”
The report is based on a trove of documents leaked to both Branwen and Gizmodo last month, as well as some publicly available evidence. The Gizmodo report, published about an hour after Wired’s, includes copies of some of the documents. They include:
Archived posts from Wright’s blog, including a post published the day after Bitcoin’s 2009 launch. “This is decentralized,” wrote Wright in the short post, since deleted. “We try it until it works.” Another post discusses Wright’s intention to release a “cryptocurrency paper” in August 2008, three months before the original Bitcoin paper was published in November 2008.
Leaked emails written by Wright, including one to an Australian senator about a tax dispute with the Australian government. “Would our Japanese friend have weight coming out of retirement?” asked Wright.
A transcript of a meeting between Wright and his lawyers, regarding the same dispute. “I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running bitcoin since 2009,” Wright says, according to the transcript. “By the end of this I think half the world is going to bloody know.”
The Tulip Trust
And there’s more. Wired also obtained an exchange between Wright and his late friend David Kleiman, a computer forensics analyst, in which Kleiman agrees to take control of the “Tulip Trust,” a stash of 1.1 million bitcoins. That huge chunk of digital money, worth more than $400 million by today’s prices, is about the same size as the fortune that Satoshi Nakamoto is believed to have, which is visible on bitcoin’s blockchain.
“No one but Nakamoto is known to have assembled such a massive hoard of the cryptocurrency, and only Nakamoto could have generated so many bitcoins so early in its evolution, when a bitcoin could be “mined” with relatively small amounts of processing power,” write Greenberg and Branwen. “Only one such bitcoin megapile exists, and the closely-watched coins haven’t moved in bitcoin’s entire history.”
Under the rules of the Tulip Trust, the bitcoins must be held in place until 2020, but can be accessed by Wright for research and for “commercial systems that enhance the value of bitcoin.”
The role of Kleiman isn’t clear from the reports. The Gizmodo report suggests Kleiman, who died in 2013, may have had a bigger role in the invention.
Not all the evidence comes from the leaked documents. A liquidation report on one of several companies Wright founded, called Hotwire, shows that the company was founded in 2013 with $23 million worth of bitcoins owned by Wright.
Wired sent an encrypted email to Wright last week suggesting they knew his secret, and asking to meet with him. “You are digging, the question is how deep are you?” was the cryptic response from the address Tessier-Ashpool@AnonymousSpeech.com, a reference to a William Gibson novel that came from an IP address controlled by Vistomail, which Satoshi Nakamoto also used.
The Wired report comes on the heels of last year’s debunked Newsweek cover story, which ended with a strong denial by Dorian Nakamoto, the unassuming Japanese-American engineer who denied having anything to do with bitcoin. In Wright’s leaked emails, he vented his displeasure at that cover story.
“I am not from the bloody USA! Nor am I called Dorien [sic],” reads a March 6, 2014 message from Wright to a colleague, according to Wired. “I do not want to be your posterboy. I am not found and I do not want to be,” he says in another message following the Newsweek story.
The Gizmodo story includes interviews with Wright’s ex-wife, and reporters who tried to interview those close to him in Australia, but were mostly stonewalled. A reporter approached Wright’s home in suburban Sydney and asked his current wife if he was the inventor of Bitcoin. She smiled and closed the door.