Australian technology entrepreneur Dr Craig Wright has seemingly ended years of speculation over who created digital currency Bitcoin by showing he holds the keys to the currency’s first-ever transaction.
After initial reluctance, Dr Wright, a Brisbane-born computer scientist and businessman, claimed publicly on Monday on his personal blog to be ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ – the known alias of the currency’s creator.
“I was the main part of it, but other people helped me,” he told the BBC.
Bitcoin is a digital payment system that is completely virtual.
Unlike physical coins or notes, it only exists online and is stored in a ‘digital wallet’ application on a smartphone or computer.
The currency is traded to buy products and services. Each transaction is recorded in a public list to ensure people can’t spend coins they don’t own, make copies or undo transactions.
To verify his identity, Dr Wright used cryptographic keys created in the early days of Bitcoin, known to have been used by Satoshi Nakamoto to send 10 bitcoins to cryptographer Hal Finney in January 2009 – the first ever bitcoin transaction.
Those coins today would be worth about $A5850.
The BBC reported the claim as fact. The Economist was less convinced.
“Our conclusion is that Mr Wright could well be Mr Nakamoto, but that important questions remain,” UK newspaper The Economist reported.
“Indeed, it may never be possible to establish beyond reasonable doubt who really created bitcoin.”
Who is Dr Craig Wright?
Bitcoin was created in 2009. By 2011 it had a reputation for illicit transactions, particularly to purchase drugs and firearms on secretive dark-web marketplace, The Silk Road.
The identity of the currency’s creator remained secret for years and confounded the tech and financial worlds.
Dr Wright studied engineering at the University of Queensland, transferring to computer science in his fourth year.
According to his personal website, he holds numerous qualifications, including doctorates in theology and computer science and masters degrees in science, statistics, and law.
“Wright is one of the most highly qualified digital forensic practitioners globally and is a sought-after public speaker both locally and internationally, while also presenting his latest research findings at academic conferences,” the website claimed.
“He is currently working towards regulation and acceptance of virtual currencies.”
He has founded and worked with Bitcoin-related businesses in the past, including cryptocurrency company DeMorgan and cybersecurity and computer forensics company Panopticrypt.
In December 2015, the Australian Federal Police raided Dr Wright’s Sydney home on a warrant issued by the Australian Tax Office.
The raid led to wide speculation he was Mr Nakamoto’s true identity and saw him pursued by people trying to crack the mystery.
In a blog post revealing his identity, Dr Wright said although he had withdrawn from public life in recent years, he had continued work on new projects.
“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,” he wrote.
“Satoshi is dead. But this is only the beginning.”