“Satoshi is dead.”
To many, the name Satoshi Nakamoto rings of mystery. Which makes sense — the name is a mystery. The name comes from a white paper about Bitcoin released in November 2008. Nakamoto is considered the founder and inventor of Bitcoin, though no one knows for certain who s/he/they is.
Australian Craig Steven Wright, who claims to have created Bitcoin. Photo: BBC via AP
The name Craig Steven Wright, on the other hand, used to be far from mysterious. So much so that Wired once called him both “unknown” and a “nobody” in the same piece, the very piece that ensured Wright was no longer either of those things. His name became known last December when both Wired and Gizmodo reported that he might be Satoshi Nakamoto.
Now, he says that he is. Which makes it even more unbelievable that he wrote those words on his personal blog.
For years, journalists and hackers have hunted the identity of Nakamoto, a search so seemingly mythical at this point that it even inspired a comic book (which, naturally, sold for 20 bitcoins). Now Wright, 45-year-old Australian computer scientist (and many other things), has claimed that title both on his own blog and to GQ-UK, The Economist and BBC.
Craig Steven Wright: “Satoshi is dead.” Photo: YouTube
So, who is this “unknown” “nobody” who the internet has been seeking for more than half a decade? Like many chameleons, there are several answers that fit that space, each one as true as the next.
Collector of academic degrees.
Police raiding Craig Steven Wright’s Sydney home in December 2015. Photo: John McDuling
But, mostly? Businessman.
In fact, when he appeared at the Bitcoin Investor’s Conference in Las Vegas in October 2015, not many seemed to know who he was.
“I’m a former academic who, these days, does research commercially that no one ever hears about, which suits me very well.” he told the convention via Skype. “I basically work in designing protocols and doing a whole lot of things that people don’t realise is actually possibly yet. Will be back to publishing papers soon.”
“But hold on a second,” the moderator interrupted him, laughing nervously. “Who are you? What do you … No one here … tell me who you are.”
“I’m a bit of everything,” he responded.
“How did you first learn about Bitcoin?” she asked.
“I’ve been involved with all this for a long time,” he answered, “I try and stay, I keep my head down.”
According to Wright’s personal blog, he is a 45-year-old “computer scientist, businessman and inventor” who was born in Brisbane, Queensland in October 1970. He holds a doctorate in theology and “has submitted his completed thesis for his second doctorate in computer science”. In addition, he holds several masters’ degrees and has written books about systems audits and IT regulations and compliance along with having held “several senior executive positions with companies focused on cryptocurrency and smart contracts, digital forensics and IT security.”
According to the Economist, his CV lists a masters in statistics from the University of Newcastle, one in law from Northumbria University and several more masters in IT and management from Charles Sturt University.
He was also a saucier in the early 1990s, after training in French cuisine. Meanwhile, he was studying nuclear physics and nuclear magnetic resonance at the University of Queensland, Business Insider reported.
“I am a bit of an academic junkie and go from degree to degree as a sort of hobby, so this all adds to the level of being over-qualified for most things,” he once said, according to Business Insider.
That certainly seems to be the case when considering his long and varied career.
Most of it has been focused on information technology for a wide array of companies, including the Australian Securities Exchange and Centre for Strategic Cyberspace and Security Science. Wright was appointed as the Asia Pacific Director of Global Institute for Cyber Security Research, according to a 2003 press release from Charles Sturt University. There he would “establish similar relationships with regional intelligence agencies, governments and security vendors to those that GICSR have in place with the NSA, FBI, DHS, NASA and NIST in the USA … to assist government, industry and security vendors to be much more aligned to the cyber threats posed … [by] groups that pose a direct and growing threat to National Security through economic impact.”
In 2007, he became the first person in the world to earn certification in Compliance and Audits from Global Assurance Information Certification (GIAC). The certification had been around since 2003, and only 11 people had even completed the exam, which reportedly requires 36 hours of testing, by the time Wright passed it, ComputerWorld reported.
But his interests seem far more varied than his work experience suggests.
The dissertation for which the he earned his PhD was titled “Gnarled roots of a creation theory,” and he’s been a trustee for the Uniting Church since 2007, Business Insider reported.
His LinkedIn, which now appears to have been removed, once read, “If you need to ever need to know of Dionysus, Vesta … Ceres (Roman Goddess of the Corn, Earth, Harvest) or other mythological characters – I am your man. I could even hold a conversation on Eileithyia, the Greek Goddess of childbirth and her Roman rebirth as Lucina.”
And he’s publicly had a foot in the world of digital currency since at least 1999.
That year, the government in Northern Territory granted the first online casino licenses to a company based in Alice Springs, according to a white paper from Spectrum Gaming Group. Online gambling was new, and cybersecurity regarding the money transferred there was paramount. Wright claims to have been involved in the designing of the casino’s architecture, Forbes reported.
More than ten years later, in June 2013 – still two years before publications would claim he founded Bitcoin — Wright founded a now-defunct technology firm called Hotwire PE using $US23 million in Bitcoin (which also represents 1.5 per cent of all Bitcoin in existence), Wired reported.
The following February, he announced the company would be opening Denariuz, the first Bitcoin-based bank, Business Insider reported.
Everything would be run like a traditional bank — users would carry debit and credit cards, have savings accounts and be able to take out loans — only the currency would be Bitcoin. He hoped the bank would reach a million customers around the world, though it would include no physical branches or ATMs.
He even hoped to bring credit companies like Visa and American Express into the fold, allowing Denariuz customers to spend Bitcoin using those cards.
The timing couldn’t have been worse, though. Just after announcing the bank, a Bitcoin marketplace exchange in Tokyo, called Mt Gox, collapsed spectacularly after hackers allegedly stole 750,000 Bitcoins. Losses were estimated at more than $US400 million, and the backlash against the digital currency was enormous.
Since the point of Bitcoin is that it’s untraceable, so too are its thieves.
“What’s fascinating and disturbing about the bankruptcy is the size of the loss,” said Mark Williams, a former Federal Reserve official who teaches finance at Boston University, told The Washington Post. “There’s no legal recourse. There’s no financial system … In essence, if a criminal gets the coin, the criminal owns the coin.”
The bank never came to pass.
Hotwire PE failed, but Wright’s comments during the fallout seem particularly telling. A year before anyone suspected him of being the founder of Bitcoin, he told InvestorDaily, “There was never any flaw with bitcoin. There was never any coding error with bitcoin and there was never any protocol error with bitcoin.”
“Mt Gox treated it like a game; they didn’t treat it like they were actually running an exchange,” he continued.
A year later, his name would become known to all in the tech community.
In 2015, several news organisations were allegedly contacted by a source who claimed to know the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wired and Gizmodo both published lengthy features pointing to Craig Wright and an American computer forensic expert named Dave Kleiman, who died in 2013, as the true faces behind Satoshi Nakamoto.
Some publications agreed with this assertion, but many more didn’t. Even Wired walked its story back. After all, as The Economist wrote just today, “It may never be possible to establish beyond reasonable doubt who really created bitcoin.”
Previous attempts had failed spectacularly. Newsweek, in particularly, had enough egg on its face to make an omelet after publishing a 2014 cover story titled “The Face Behind Bitcoin,” which erroneously claimed a California man named Dorian Nakamoto was the cryptocurrency’s creator.
As that conversation heated up, so did another surrounding Wright — just days later, his house in the Sydney suburb Gordon was raided by ten police officers. His offices were also being raided, and the Australian Taxation Office was clear in that, “This matter is unrelated to recent media reporting regarding the digital currency bitcoin,” it said.
Though it bears repeating that if Wright is Nakamoto, he would be in possession of hundreds of million dollars of Bitcoin, which, as a cryptocurrency, has been considered an asset by the ATO since Dec. 2014, Reuters reported.
The raid seemed to be related a tax dispute concerning his former company, Hotwire.
And after the raid, Wright all but disappeared from the Internet, Gizmodo reported, deleting most of his social media and blog presence.
Until today, when he claimed that Nakamoto, the entity that released Bitcoin’s code on Jan. 9, 2009 and the white paper two months prior, was dead.
On his blog, he wrote:
I have been staring at my screen for hours, but I cannot summon the words to express the depth of my gratitude to those that have supported the bitcoin project from its inception – too many names to list. You have dedicated vast swathes of your time, committed your gifts, sacrificed relationships and REM sleep for years to an open source project that could have come to nothing. And yet still you fought. This incredible community’s passion and intellect and perseverance has taken my small contribution and nurtured it, enhanced it, breathed life into it. You have given the world a great gift. Thank you.
Be assured, just as you have worked, I have not been idle during these many years. Since those early days, after distancing myself from the public persona that was Satoshi, I have poured every measure of myself into research. I have been silent, but I have not been absent. I have been engaged with an exceptional group and look forward to sharing our remarkable work when they are ready.
Satoshi is dead.
But this is only the beginning.