The identity of "Satoshi Nakamoto," the anonymous figure behind the beloved cryptocurrency Bitcon, has been one of the biggest mysteries on the internet — until now.
Both Wired and Gizmodo published investigations on Tuesday suggesting that, after years of false leads, the search for the true identity of Bitcoin founder Nakamoto may be over. Hacker info leaked to researchers and reporters appears to indicate "Nakamoto" is really forty-something Australian academic and computer engineering expert Craig Steven Wright and American associate David Kleiman, who died in 2013.
Why is this significant? Bitcoin, the decentralized currency favored by hackers and libertarians wary of centralized financial institutions, has evolved from a "nerd novelty" to an "economic miracle" in the last few years, asWiredput it. Today, Bitcoin plays a role in everything from innocent international business transactions as well as high-level drug trafficking. The magazine reported that the "total value of all bitcoins has grown to nearly $5 billion" and the person who founded it likely has "a nine-figure fortune"— a billionaire, basically.
Wired first reported the link between "Nakamoto" and Wright/Kleiman on Tuesday afternoon, basing the investigation on disclosures by pseudonymous cyber security expert Gwern Branwen, who provided documentation that appeared to directly link both existing and deleted blog posts by Wright—both existing and deleted—to Bitcoin's launch in January, 2009.
Separately, Gizmodo's Sam Biddle and Andy Cush received tips from someone who claimed they'd hacked Satoshi Nakamoto's email account, asserting that "Nakamoto" was "Dr Craig Wright." The hacker followed up the claim with what appear to be files siphoned from an Outlook account matching the one used by Wright. Those emails in turn linked Wright to his American partner David Kleiman. Gizmodo "also obtained confirmation from on-the-record sources that Wright claimed on at least two occasions that he and Kleiman were both involved in the creation of Bitcoin."
It's worth noting here that Kleiman's death two years ago was tragic and strange:
Several of the emails and documents sent to Gizmodo point to a close relationship between Wright and Kleiman, a U.S. Army veteran who lived in Palm Beach County, Florida. Kleiman was confined to a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident in 1995, and became a reclusive computer forensics obsessive thereafter. He died broke and in squalor, after suffering from infected bedsores. His body was found decomposing and surrounded by empty alcohol bottles and a loaded handgun. Bloody feces was tracked along the floor, and a bullet hole was found in his mattress, though no spent shell casings were found on the scene. But documents shared with Gizmodo suggest that Kleiman may have possessed a Bitcoin trust worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and seemed to be deeply involved with the currency and Wright’s plans. “Craig, I think you’re mad and this is risky,” Kleiman writes in one 2011 email to Wright. “But I believe in what we are trying to do.”
Neither Gizmodo norWiredcould state conclusively that Wright and Kleiman were truly the men who created the cryptocurrency under the guise of Satoshi Nakamoto; after all, both publications noted just how hard it's been to pin down "Nakamoto" in the past.
But a report published in the Guardian strongly hinted that Australian police have been paying very close attention to Wright. Authorities raided his home shortly after Wired and Gizmodo published their reports.
On Wednesday afternoon, police gained entry to a home belonging to Craig Wright, who had hours earlier been identified in investigations by Gizmodo and Wired, based on leaked transcripts of legal interviews and files. Both publications have indicated that they believe Wright to have been involved in the creation of the cryptocurrency.
Other people who say they knew Wright have expressed strong doubts about his alleged role, with some saying privately they believe the publications have been the victims of an elaborate hoax.
More than 10 police personnel arrived at the house in the Sydney suburb of Gordon at about 1:30pm. Two police staff wearing white gloves could be seen from the street searching the cupboards and surfaces of the garage. At least three more were seen from the front door.
The Australian Federal Police issued a statement denying that their investigation had anything to do with Bitcoin, but it may still be the case that the Gizmodo and Wired reports provided fodder for law enforcement officials to search his home on the charges of, say, tax evasion. The Guardian noted discussions in leaked documents in which Wright was shown to have discussed his work with Bitcoin with Australian tax officials.
“I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running bitcoin since 2009," Wright said in a leaked transcript, "but I think it’s getting – most – most – by the end of this half the world is going to bloody know.”
Photos by BTC Keychain / Flickr