I Am Satoshi Nakamoto

OK, you got me. I’m not. Neither is Dorian Nakamoto, pictured above, and neither is this [Craig White] guy. Or at least, his supposed proof that he is “Satoshi” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Indeed, you can re-create it yourself and pretend to be “Satoshi” too.

If you haven’t been following along, “Satoshi Nakamoto” is the person or group of people who invented Bitcoin, and who holds a decent fortune’s worth of the currency. He’s been exceedingly careful at keeping his identity secret. So much so, that upon hearing another “We Found Satoshi” story in the news, we actually laughed at our wife this morning. But then it was picked up by the BBC and is forthcoming in the Economist. Serious journalism.

Well, if you read the BBC piece, they note that “Security expert Dan Kaminsky said the procedure was almost ‘maliciously resistant’ to validation.” Hint: If Dan “DNSSEC” Kaminsky can’t verify a signature, there’s a good chance it’s not the real deal.

The really embarrassing part is that this [Craig White] character claimed to be Satoshi in December 2015. If he actually were Satoshi, who is probably a cryptographic genius, do you think it would take him five months to figure out a cryptographically sound way of proving his identity? Nope.

So here’s how he did it, according to [Patrick McKenzie]’s GitHub, linked above. There is a hashed secret out there that only “Satoshi” knows. Hashes are one-way functions; they produce a number that’s easy to calculate if you know the original data, but devilishly hard to work from the hash backwards to get the data out. This hashed value is public, and part of the blockchain, so we can be pretty sure that it hasn’t been altered.

[Craig] claimed to have some text from Sartre hashed with “Satoshi’s” key, and that this proves his identity. But instead of providing the hash of the Sartre text, [Craig] apparently substituted a hash from the blockchain. When this supposed Sartre hash is validated against the blockchain, of course, it works. In short, he swapped hashes, and people failed to notice.

So I’m not “Satoshi”, and neither is this guy. Who is? The mystery continues. And given how careful “Satoshi” has been so far, it’s likely to remain so for a long while. But one thing’s for sure, when “he” does choose to reveal himself, it won’t be difficult to verify. After all “Satoshi” knows “Satoshi’s” password.

Image via the BBC, of another guy who isn’t “Satoshi”.

(Late Edit: Here’s another really nice writeup, this one by [ErrataRob].)

74 thoughts on “I Am Satoshi Nakamoto

    1. I heard a story about this on Marketplace last night. They were talking about the blockchain technology being the ‘it’ thing right now. For instance, using blockchain to make sure a house isn’t sold to multiple people.

      I doubt you can patent that. But having been the person to implement what has grown into a globally recognized system supercharges your ability to land contract work.

      That, and trolls exist.

      1. Im sure you have heard of it, but checkout ‘Ethereum’ – very interesting project that really takes these concepts to the next level, or maybe the next next level.

        1. Actually … I thought about founding a Kickstarter campaign to provide HAD with some proof readers. For a non-native English reader “their” (pun intended) English quite often is confusing (I was tempted to write “confuziusing”) – not because of some grain of irony, which is always hard to convey convincingly, but because of seemingly uneducated use of words that – again, seemingly – reflect some “inside jokes” or “geek speech”, but come across as simple “we (pun intended) don’t care if anyone actually understands what this text is about”.

          Well, whining is easy if you aren’t up to proof you can do better. I might be able to do better. But I actually don’t care about bitcoins, Sakoshis or Kaminskis.

          1. @Noirwhal A thing has been around since the 80s at the very latest. Peeving in general is something you should be wary of. Linguists have enough headaches without people espousing blatantly incorrect prescriptivist poppycock.

      1. Here’s a crazy thought: what if he INTENTIONALLY thru that post-it away? Bitcoin was used on the Silk Road (among other nefarious places), it’s only recently entered the public consciousness as something with potential. Satoshi may have destroyed the key out of fear or guilt, and thus removed himself from Bitcoins fate.

        1. Well that would explain why he’s not revealing his identity! Would you say you were the guy that forgot a password for a safe that holds your fortune and now you have to eat ramen every day?

  1. “but devilishly hard to work from the hash backwards to get the data out.”

    That’s a bit of an understatement.
    Most hash functions take an arbitrary large input (but finite) and produce a fixed size output.
    Therefore hash functions have to be surjective, which means each output corresponds to many possible inputs.
    While it might be possible to calculate a single input from a hash, given enough time and computation power,
    it is impossible to know without further context wether it was the same input used to generate this hash in the first place.

    So it’s not just “devilishly hard”, but simply impossible without some knowledge about the original data.

      1. In theory, it’s neither proven nor known to be provable to be impossible to reverse. I mean theory in the academic sense: nobody knows whether one way functions really exist. Made me boggle when I first learned that.

    1. “Therefore hash functions have to be surjective, which means each output corresponds to many possible inputs.”

      That’s not surjective. Surjective means that for every possible output, there’s an input which gives that output. A function f is surjective if for every ‘y’ there’s an ‘x’ for which f(x)=y.

      Which isn’t what you’re talking about. I think you mean hash functions are by necessity non-injective (many-to-one). Hash functions don’t have to uniformly populate the output space.

      1. I think you’re right. I believe he possibly is referring to injectivity. A hash algorithm must be non-injective and can either be surjective or non-surjective.

  2. To make it super simple – all C Wright has to do to prove he is Satoshi is to make a transaction on the early blocks of bitcoins.

    That is it.. He does not have to do anything else.. Just say “i will transfer .1BTC to a wallet’, and then do it.

    The people falling for C Wrights nonsense are…. Who knows what to say anymore. One would imagine they are allowing themselves to be fooled, for some reason for other.

  3. I found Craig Wright’s page very annoying to read, and wanted to start verifying immediately, except no full source sartre text… with many bulls**t alarms going off: why use pictures of data instead of data? why no full sartre text to hash? why this bad crypto for dummies course? The writing style was completely different from the bitcoin whitepaper…

    1. Craig Wright is an experienced long-term liar. Reading about him is a stark and unpleasant reminder that Psychopaths and other mentally damaged humans often rise to positions of power and prominence.

    2. as to why Gavin Andresen would acknowledge it verified:
      * perhaps being forced? true names and all
      * perhaps to divert attention from the real maker(s) -possibly including himself- …
      * perhaps a simple case of milgram experiment, proof by perceived authority

  4. As stated earlier, the way to prove that someone is an early player (not necessarily Satoshi) would be to spend a coin from the first block. This is so obvious and simple that you have to question why some other approach was used. Motive for pretending to be Satoshi? Maybe to explain possession of a large number of Bitcoins without illegal activity or a large mining operation?

    1. He says the wallet now belongs to some charitable trust so he can’t spend in it. This isn’t likely. A proper trust would have drained the account into a new user ID that only they knew the password for.

  5. Not, as a typical internet forum poster, to trivialize the work of Satoshi Nakamoto, but is Bitcoin really the work of a genius? It’s clever but from my understanding of bitcoin it’s really nothing much. Bruce Schneier talks about multiple ideas for currency in his 1996 “Applied Cryptography” and while none of them specifically implement a block-chain, their not far off the mark.

      1. Robert. For shame. Your sentence structure is barely passable as English. More a fevered fragment – and what is with the quotes around things you yourself are saying?

        You do know how to form a proper sentence, right?

    1. the actual genius lies not in the e-currency ledger, nor in the proof-of-work algorithm, nor in the hashes & Merkle tree, but in carefully assembling those preexisting technologies to form a multiparty equilibrium that makes every player authenticate other’s play.

      1. “The actual genius lies … in carefully assembling those preexisting technologies”. Tons of games, thought experiments and cryptology 101 prompts include every player verifying every other player. Manipulating bits to make secrets safe, signatures valid, and cheating impossible have been laid out in this structure long before bitcoin. I just think that the real genius lies in those development of those components, the proofs of the one way functions, not in their assembly.

  6. He, she, or they are probably hiding because they know international government will probably take them to court for undermining the economy even if they have to pass legislature to do it.

    1. Lay off the conspiracy theorist bullshit please!
      “international government”? I guess they are the reptilians hiding the cure for cancer behind all free energy devices?

      1. In this case he may have a point, Bitcoin is the currency of choice on online black markets (ex. the late Silk Road). At one time it seemed as if every story that included the word ‘Bitcoin’ was about illegal activity. I can imagine any law enforcement agency would love to charge it’s creator somehow.

      2. @Megol
        Lol, conspiracy? Nah. All governments like collecting taxes. Most dislike criminal enterprise they don’t profit from. Bitcoins are used to evade the former and fund the latter. There really aren’t too many places he/she/it could live where outing him/her/itself would be a good idea, even if residing in a country that doesn’t work with Interpol or NATO.

  7. Can someone explain the significance of this, even if this is the real Satoshi? How will this fix the BitCoin or even have any affect on the future, other than news buzz of course?

    1. The HAD crew have a special arrangement with one really accommodating woman, and the lot of them live together in a big house. It’s like inverse Mormonism.

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