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."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Mars theory gets dusted: Streaks may be sand, not water

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A new study suggests that dark streaks on Mars represent flowing sand -- not water. Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated that lines on some Martian slopes were signs of water currently on the planet. Source
  • Streaks on Mars likely flowing sand, not water, new research suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new study suggests that dark streaks on Mars are signs of flowing sand — not water. Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated these recurring slope lines were signs of water currently on Mars. Source
  • Firestorm: Fort McMurray wildfire is a warning, book claims

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The wildfire that enveloped Fort McMurray in the spring of 2016 is a harbinger of things to come, Edmonton journalist Ed Struzik concludes in his new book, Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape our Future. Megafires like the one that burned out of control in the northern Alberta community for two months in Canada's costliest natural disaster, could soon become commonplace across North America, Struzik said. Source
  • Astronomers unveil secrets of interstellar visitor

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Astronomers say they've learned more about the first known object to enter our solar system from deep space, including its size and colour. New data from the European Southern Observatory's telescopes and others around the world have revealed that the asteroid — spotted last month, already speeding away from the sun — is rocky, cigar-shaped and about 400 metres long. Source
  • Ont. teacher leading effort to build roof over villa in ancient Pompeii

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An Ontario high school teacher is spearheading a campaign to build a roof over one of the ancient homes in Pompeii, in an effort to preserve the prized archeological site where a well-known figure in Latin education once lived. Source
  • Warming to make thunderstorms larger and more frequent

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Summer thunderstorms in North America will likely be larger, wetter and more frequent in a warmer world, dumping 80 per cent more rain in some areas and worsening flooding, a new study says. Source
  • Endangered orcas compete with seals, sea lions for salmon

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- Harbour seals, sea lions and some fish-eating killer whales have been rebounding along the Northeast Pacific Ocean in recent decades. But that boom has come with a trade-off: They're devouring more of the salmon prized by a unique but fragile population of endangered orcas. Source
  • 20 Canadian ideas to improve child health win support from Grand Challenges

    Tech & Science CBC News
    An Uber-like connection that can help get pregnant women in Kenya to health care; a 3D printer project to provide orthotic devices for Nepali children with clubfoot and scoliosis; and a microchip that can figure out what pathogen is causing diarrhea in children in Bangladesh. Source
  • Gold leaf from Napoleon's crown fetches $735,000 at auction

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A gold laurel leaf removed from the crown Napoleon Bonaparte wore to his coronation sold for US$735,000 at an auction in Paris on Sunday. The sale price far exceeded the estimate of between US$117,000 and US$176,000, Osenat auction house said. Source
  • Ontario post-secondary school launches Mohawk language learning app

    Tech & Science CTV News
    OHSWEKEN, Ont. -- A southwestern Ontario post-secondary school has launched an app to help people learn Mohawk. Six Nations Polytechnic says the app for Apple and Android devices comes on the heels of another successful launch last year that taught the Cayuga language. Source