Hunt for Bitcoin's secretive founder takes a turn

LOS ANGELES -- Since the founding of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in 2009, its inventor - or inventors - have been shrouded in mystery.

See Full Article

For six years, that individual or group has lurked behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and hoarded a pile of the digital currency so large it might crash the market if sold today.

The hunt for Bitcoin's secretive founder has taken a turn. The technology magazine Wired and the website Gizmodo both published investigative pieces this week that sorted through a trove of leaked (and possibly hacked) emails and documents that pointed to Craig Stephen Wright, a 44-year-old Australian bitcoin entrepreneur living in a posh suburb of Sydney.

While neither report was conclusive - no attempt at identification can be without the founder sending a message or moving bitcoins using Nakamoto's own encrypted signature, known as a PGP key - both raised startling circumstantial evidence that puts a bright spotlight on Wright.

Attempts to reach Wright on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The hunt for Bitcoin's founder has become a cottage industry among some journalists. The chase has veered from a Finnish sociologist to a Japanese mathematician to a Japanese-American engineer, all of whom denied it - the latter after a car chase with reporters that ended at the offices of The Associated Press in Los Angeles in March 2014.

Why anyone cares boils down to three key things:

- Bitcoin is designed for secure financial transactions that require no central authority - no banks, no government regulators. That makes it attractive to off-the-grid types such as libertarians, people who want to evade tax authorities, and criminals, even though Bitcoin doesn't guarantee anonymity, since it documents every transaction in a public forum. Still, it attracts conspiracy theorists interested in the very conspiracy that created it.

"It's part of the mystery of Bitcoin," said James Angel, associate professor of finance at Georgetown University. "Usually when people invent something really cool, they're more than happy to take credit for it. Here, we have this obsessive anonymity. You kind of wonder, 'Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?'"

- Bitcoin is still working out kinks and problems, one of which is a dispute over an arbitrary cap on the number of bitcoins that are created each day by so-called miners who keep the system running. Some advocates would like Nakamoto to re-emerge and resolve the conflict, even though the founder hasn't been involved for years.

- Nakamoto's encrypted PGP key can unlock a huge stash of bitcoins - a million or so worth more than C$523 million, accounting for about 7 per cent of all bitcoins in existence. No one has touched that bitcoin hoard. Should the real Nakamoto begin cashing in those bitcoins, it could destabilize the cryptocurrency.

According to Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California, bitcoins are thinly traded. Only about $1.9 million in real dollars flow into the system every day to buy the roughly 3,600 bitcoins created by "miners" who run intensive computations necessary to keep track of bitcoin transactions in exchange for new bitcoins.

"The amount of bitcoin in the early Satoshi-mined blocks would totally swamp the current demand," Weaver said, making the founder's identity crucial to faith in the system itself. "What happens if there's someone with a million shares who you don't know, you don't know where they are, you don't know what their motives are?"

Wired, for one, couched its conclusion guardedly: "Either Wright invented bitcoin, or he's a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did."


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Global water crisis has widespread impact: UN chief

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says on World Water Day that 40 per cent of the world's population faces water scarcity. The UN chief told diplomats and activists at Thursday's launch of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development that "water is a matter of life and death," stressing that humans, cities, industries and agriculture depend on it. Source
  • 'Artificial magma' technology used to suppress Alberta oil and gas well leaks

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New technologies employing brute force as well as artificial volcanic action are being developed to better seal thousands of inactive oil and gas wells in Canada that are leaking methane, a greenhouse gas with an outsized impact on global warming. Source
  • World's first 3D-printed car due on roads in 2019

    Tech & Science CTV News
    It's been easy for us to think of 3D printing as something of a gimmick while the process has still been in its embryonic stage, but when news emerges about a 3D-printed car that is genuinely set to take to the roads as soon as next year, it's probably time to sit up and take notice. Source
  • Fed up with Facebook? Here's how to break it off

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Fed up with Facebook? You're not alone. A growing number of people are deleting it, or at least wrestling with whether they should, in light of its latest privacy debacle -- allegations that a Trump-linked data-mining firm stole information on tens of millions of users to influence elections. Source
  • 'Disco ball' satellite dropping quickly out of orbit

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Disco is long dead, and a disco ball-like satellite will soon join it. The shiny, multi-faceted, orb-like satellite, dubbed “Humanity Star,” is expected to plummet back to Earth and burn up sometime Thursday, approximately six months earlier than originally intended. Source
  • Distressed seabird rallies after dinner and a warm bed in Newfoundland home

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When Antje Springman and Dennis Minty spotted something huddled under the honeysuckle shrub outside their home along a river bank in Conception Bay North, they thought it was one of their chickens in distress. Springman went out to investigate and discovered a very different type of bird — a Great Cormorant, a black seabird about the size of a goose, commonly called a shag in Newfoundland and Labrador. Source
  • Here are the places in Canada — yes, Canada — vulnerable to drought

    Tech & Science CBC News
    This story is part of our series Water at Risk, which looks at some of the risks to the water supply facing parts of Canada, South Africa and the Middle East. Read more stories in the series. Source
  • Uber self-driving system should have spotted woman, experts say

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Video of a deadly self-driving vehicle crash in suburban Phoenix shows a pedestrian walking from a darkened area onto a street just moments before an Uber SUV strikes her. The lights on the SUV didn't illuminate 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg on Sunday night until a second or two before impact, raising questions about whether the vehicle could have stopped in time. Source
  • Chris Wylie says he'll testify in U.S., U.K. about Cambridge Analytica

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Chris Wylie, the Canadian data scientist who revealed information about how Cambridge Analytica gathered data about Facebook users, tells CBC News that he wants to testify in the U.S. and the U.K. about social media's threat to elections and democratic institutions. Source
  • How to protect your personal info on Facebook

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Facebook users who are worried about protecting their personal information in the wake of the alleged privacy breach by Cambridge Analytica have a few options at their disposal. The U.K. data firm has denied any wrongdoing and Facebook has said that, while none of the information leaked was the result of a data breach, it did appear to involve the passing of personal information from Cambridge Analytica to a third party when that data was supposed to have been destroyed. Source