The “Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto” story is pretty shameful journalism from the BBC. Yesterday morning they were reporting on their front page that Wright had ‘revealed’ himself as Satoshi. They’ve since changed the wording to be more sceptical, but the version I saw yesterday morning was running it as fact that Satoshi had finally been identified.
There were many ‘this is clearly not right’ signs from the story and you didn’t need to be technically competent at Bitcoin to spot them. Wright previously tried this around the end of last year and he wasn’t convincing then: Satoshi was substance over style, Wright the opposite. Wright was then caught backdating evidence that would cryptically hint towards himself being Satoshi, and claimed he had degrees from a university which denied awarding them to him. Although he calls himself ‘Dr. Wright’ and presents himself as a computer scientist, his only known real PhD is in theology (which is odd by itself). The man came across strongly as a fraud. He was also under investigation for tax fraud. More on that story later.
So now what’s changed? What’s changed is he’s now being more overt with these claims while also claiming to have cryptographic proof.
Unfortunately, nobody has managed to locate this proof. He isn’t making the proof public because he wants to be left alone and to keep a low profile, which is why he posted a load of mumbo jumbo on his blog, in between giant photos of his face. The blog contains nothing of note (except giant photos of his face). There was a private staged demo he gave to a few people, but not under circumstances that James Randi would approve of, so there are many ways he could have faked it and used cracked software, including but not limited to: tampering with the machine, an ARP attack or similar on the network, using his own wireless hotspot, paying everyone in the room to tell everyone it happened the way he said it did, etc.
The bottom line is that if he is Satoshi, then thanks to public key cryptography he can prove it to an extraordinarily high level of certainty with ease. He has gone to an awful lot of effort but produced nothing of significance.
When he first came to fame a few months ago the situation seemed to make some superficial level of sense. He used $50m (AU) worth of tax credits in building some kind of Bitcoin related supercomputer, but was also under investigation for tax fraud related to this. Pretending to be Satoshi may have been some elaborate plan to get the tax office off his back and he may not have intended for it to come under serious scrutiny from the internet at large. By ‘being’ Satoshi, this would give him access to around $400m (US) in Bitcoins, which he could claim to have ‘spent’, although I don’t know if Australia recognises this as something you can claim tax credits for.
Quite what he’s doing now though, that’s anyone’s guess. One can speculate that his increasingly high risk behaviour implies his tax investigation isn’t going well, but it’s a pretty stupid strategy to open himself up to more scepticism from amateur hour investigators like me and the thousands of other people saying similar things, which a prosecutor will almost certainly use to justify more intense scrutiny of the whole thing.
Back to my original point: The BBC should be ashamed for getting this one so wrong. They are usually poor at covering tech, but this was particularly bad. The BBC is state funded and does not need to push out ridiculous clickbait stories that undermine its credibility. However, it does need competent tech journalists, which it does not appear to have.
What I don’t want to see is in a few months time the headline “Bitcoin inventor jailed for tax fraud”.
There is an alternate theory that Satoshi is Dave Kleiman, but I don’t like this theory much because it appears impossible to prove and it seems to have originated from Wright, who is fundamentally unreliable. I don’t think there is yet any reliable evidence that Kleiman had any interest in Bitcoin whatsoever, and the fact he’s no longer around makes it a bit too convenient to retroactively start putting him into the picture since he can’t object.