Currency

Satoshi Nakamoto


Satoshi Nakamoto is an alias used by an unknown person or a group of people who designed bitcoin and created its original reference implementation. As part of the implementation, Satoshi Nakamoto also devised the first blockchain database. In the process he (they) were the first to solve the double-spending problem for digital currency. They were active in the development of bitcoin up until December 2010.

On P2P Foundation profile, Nakamoto claimed to be a man living in Japan and born on 5 April 1975. However, speculation about the true identity of Nakamoto has mostly focused on a number of cryptography and computer science experts of non-Japanese descent, living in the United States and Europe.

Nakamoto is believed to own up to roughly one million bitcoins, with a value estimated at approximately $10 billion USD as of November 2017.

Possible identities

There is still doubt about the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.

Nick Szabo

In December 2013, a blogger named Skye Grey linked Nick Szabo to the bitcoin whitepaper using a stylometric analysis. Szabo is a decentralized currency enthusiast and published a paper on bit gold, which is considered a precursor to bitcoin. He is known to have been interested in using pseudonyms in the 1990s. However, there is no direct proof that Szabo is the Satoshi.

Dorian Nakamoto

In a high-profile article in the magazine Newsweek (6 March 2014), journalist Leah McGrath Goodman identified Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American man living in California, whose birth name is Satoshi Nakamoto, as the Nakamoto in question. Besides his name, Goodman pointed to a number of facts (academic background and working environment) that circumstantially suggested he was the bitcoin inventor. And again there is no direct proof that connects Dorian Nakamoto to the Satoshi Nakamoto.

Hal Finney

Hal Finney  was a pre-bitcoin cryptographic pioneer and the first person (other than Nakamoto himself) to use the software, file bug reports, and make improvements. He also lived a few blocks from Dorian Nakamoto’s family home, according to Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg. Greenberg asked the writing analysis consultancy Juola & Associates to compare a sample of Finney’s writing to Satoshi Nakamoto’s, and they found that it was the closest resemblance they had yet come across (including the candidates suggested by Newsweek, Fast Company, The New Yorker, Ted Nelson and Skye Grey). Greenberg theorized that Finney may have been a ghostwriter on behalf of Nakamoto, or that he simply used his neighbor Dorian’s identity as a “drop” or “patsy whose personal information is used to hide online exploits”.

Craig Steven Wright

On 8 December 2015, Wired wrote that Craig Steven Wright, an Australian former academic, either invented bitcoin or is a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did. Craig Wright took down his Twitter account and neither he nor his ex-wife responded to press inquiries. The same day, Gizmodo published a story with evidence obtained by a hacker who supposedly broke into Wright’s email accounts, claiming that Satoshi Nakamoto was a joint pseudonym for Craig Steven Wright and computer forensics analyst David Kleiman, who died in 2013. A number of prominent bitcoin promoters remained unconvinced by the reports. Subsequent reports also raised the possibility that the evidence provided was an elaborate hoax, which Wired acknowledged “cast doubt” on their suggestion that Wright was Nakamoto.

On 2 May 2016, Craig Wright posted on his blog publicly claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto. In articles released on the same day, journalists from the BBC and The Economist stated that they saw Wright signing a message using the private key associated with the first bitcoin transaction. Wright’s claim was supported by Jon Matonis (former director of the Bitcoin Foundation) and bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen, both of whom met Wright and witnessed a similar signing demonstration.

However, bitcoin developer Peter Todd said that Wright’s blog post, which appeared to contain cryptographic proof, actually contained nothing of the sort. The Bitcoin Core project released a statement on Twitter saying “There is currently no publicly available cryptographic proof that anyone in particular is Bitcoin’s creator.” Bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik agreed that evidence publicly provided by Wright does not prove anything, and security researcher Dan Kaminsky concluded Wright’s claim was “intentional scammery”.

On 4 May 2016, Wright made another post on his blog promising to publish “a series of pieces that will lay the foundations for this extraordinary claim”. But the following day, he deleted all his blog posts and replaced them with a notice entitled “I’m Sorry”., which read in part:

I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.

In June 2016, the London Review of Books published an article by Andrew O’Hagan about the events, based on discussions with Wright and many of the other people involved in claiming the identity of Satoshi. It also reveals that the Canadian company nTrust was behind Wright’s claim made in May 2016.

In a 2017 Netflix documentary titled Banking on Bitcoin, Wright claimed that he is the real Satoshi, saying:

Some people will believe some people won’t and to tell you the truth, I don’t really care. (…) I didn’t decide [to reveal my identity now]. People decided this matter for me. And they’re making life difficult not for me but my friends, my family, my staff. (…) They want to be private. They don’t want all of this to affect them. And I don’t want any of them to be impacted by this. None of it’s true. There are lots of stories out there that have been made up. And I don’t like it hurting those people I care about. So I am going to do this thing only once. And once only. I am going to come in fron of a camera once. And I will never, ever, be on the camera ever again for any TV station, or any media, ever.

Other possibilities

In a 2011 article in The New Yorker, Joshua Davis claimed to have narrowed down the identity of Nakamoto to a number of possible individuals, including the Finnish economic sociologist Dr. Vili Lehdonvirta and Irish student Michael Clear, then a graduate student in cryptography at Trinity College Dublin. Clear strongly denied he was Nakamoto, as did Lehdonvirta.

In October 2011, writing for Fast Company, investigative journalist Adam Penenberg cited circumstantial evidence suggesting Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry could be Nakamoto. They jointly filed a patent application that contained the phrase “computationally impractical to reverse” in 2008, which was also used in the bitcoin white paper by Nakamoto. The domain name bitcoin.org was registered three days after the patent was filed. All three men denied being Nakamoto when contacted by Penenberg.

In May 2013, Ted Nelson speculated that Nakamoto is really Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. Later, an article was published in The Age newspaper that claimed that Mochizuki denied these speculations, but without attributing a source for the denial.

A 2013 article, in Vice listed Gavin Andresen, Jed McCaleb, or a government agency as possible candidates to be Nakamoto. Dustin D. Trammell, a Texas-based security researcher, was suggested as Nakamoto, but he publicly denied it.

In 2013, two Israeli mathematicians, Dorit Ron and Adi Shamir, published a paper claiming a link between Nakamoto and Ross William Ulbricht. The two based their suspicion on an analysis of the network of bitcoin transactions, but later retracted their claim.

Some considered Nakamoto might be a team of people; Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher who read the bitcoin code, said that Nakamoto could either be a “team of people” or a “genius”; Laszlo Hanyecz, a former bitcoin core developer who had emailed Nakamoto, had the feeling the code was too well designed for one person.

A 2017 article, published by a former SpaceX intern espoused the possibility of SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk being the real Satoshi, based on Musk’s technical expertise with financial software and history of publishing whitepapers. However in a tweet on November 28th, Musk denied the claim.

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