The creator of the digital currency bitcoin, known only by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, is probably an Australian entrepreneur, according to two new investigations.
Wired and Gizmodo have published separate stories suggesting that Nakamoto’s real identity is Craig Steven Wright, a 45-year-old Australian described by Wired as a “climate-change denier, a serial entrepreneur … and an eccentric.” Various attempts to prove Nakamoto’s identity in the past have proved unsuccessful.
Wired has linked Wright to bitcoin by several posts on his blog, starting with one published in August 2008 that mentioned his intention to release a “cryptocurrency paper”.
Another, published three months later, asked that readers used a PGP public key that has reportedly been linked to Nakamoto. A PGP public key is a unique string of characters that allows a user of that encryption software to receive encrypted messages.
In a post dated 10 January 2009 but later deleted, Wright reportedly announced the launch of the beta of bitcoin “tomorrow”; Wired points out that Wright, living on Australia’s east coast, could have published the post after midnight his time on the night of 9 January, which would still have been before bitcoin’s launch at 3pm on 9 January in US time, when the currency officially launched.
Wright’s blog was accessible on Wednesday morning, but was taken down completely shortly after the Wired article was published.
Wired’s article notes that three of the “smoking gun” posts on Wright’s blog had been edited since publication “to insert evidence of his bitcoin history”. The investigation is also based on a cache of leaked emails and accounting forms. The article claims that Wright mortgaged three properties and invested more than $US1m in computers, power and connectivity to launch the cryptocurrency.
After Wired contacted Wright, they received a response from a previously unknown email account – sent from an IP address previously associated with emails sent by Nakamoto – but were not granted an interview.
Documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (Asic) confirm several details of the Wired story, including Wright’s role with a company called Hotwire Preemptive Intelligence.
“Despite a massive trove of evidence, we still can’t say with absolute certainty that the mystery is solved,” Wired’s Andy Greenberg and Gwern Branwen wrote.
“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.”
Gizmodo also published its own findings into Wright on Tuesday, alleging that Wright and his late friend Dave Kleiman, an American computer forensics expert who died in 2013, were involved in bitcoin’s development.
Gizmodo says it was tipped off by a series of anonymous emails received in early November.
It published an email dated 8 January 2014 that appears to show Wright emailing three colleagues from firstname.lastname@example.org, an address that Nakomoto used to regularly communicate with early bitcoin users and developers.
The signature on the email was the name Satoshi Nakamoto and a phone number that belonged to Craig Wright. The email appears to be discussing the possibility of lobbying Australian senator Arthur Sinodinos regarding bitcoin regulation and alludes to “our Japanese friend”.
Gizmodo reported that Wright had met officials from the Australian Tax Office, but a spokeswoman told Guardian Australia she was unable to comment on taxpayers’ affairs for reasons of confidentiality.
Gizmodo contacted lawyer Andrew Sommer, a partner at the Sydney-based law firm Clayton Utz, who represented Wright at the time the emails were exchanged and who would only confirm that Wright was his client. Gizmodo also contacted Wright’s ex-wife, who recalled her husband working on “digital money” many years ago.
Wright’s current wife, who is a director at his company DeMorgan, was also approached at their home in a suburb north of Sydney, but she declined to comment. She also reportedly attempted to steer employees of DeMorgan away from a Gizmodo reporter when he visited its offices.
Guardian Australia called the media contact listed for DeMorgan, but the person who answered the phone denied any connection to the company. The office number listed on the website is answered with an automated message saying the number is unavailable.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin serve as a means to conduct electronic transactions without commercial banks as intermediaries.
Bhagwan Chowdhry, a professor of finance at UCLA, last month suggested nominating Nakamoto for the 2016 Nobel prize in economics in recognition of his innovation, but Nakamoto’s pseudonymous identity meant he was ineligible.
Since its code was released in January 2009, the total value of all bitcoins has grown to nearly $US5bn.
In March 2014, Newsweek published a cover story claiming to have unmasked bitcoin’s creator as the American Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, which was subsequently largely discredited.