Bitcoin has fundamentally changed the way millions of people around the world choose to exchange value. Its founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, went to great lengths to hide their identity.
The whole concept of Bitcoin was a means of eliminating reliance on third-party intermediaries. By hiding their identity under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin allowed Bitcoin to grow organically through community consensus rather than the need for a central figure to direct it.
However, this did not prevent people from speculating on the identity of the person behind Bitcoin. Today we examine five of the most popular conspiracy theories regarding Satoshi Nakamoto.
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Satoshi was anonymous by design
Bitcoin’s design removes a central point of failure and influence, which allows Bitcoin to remain decentralized in the purest sense. Satoshi finally stepped back from the project on April 23, 2011, announcing in an email to Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn that “I’ve moved on to other things” and “It’s in good hands.”
Despite Bitcoin’s design to keep its creator anonymous, a number of different theories have appeared as to who the mysterious creator might be. Here are 5 of the most popular theories about Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity.
1. Hal Finney
Hal Finney’s impact on Bitcoin, whether he was its creator or not, is unmistakable. He was the first person to receive a bitcoin transaction, one of the first code writers for the blockchain, and widely believed to be the second person to download and run a copy of the blockchain after Satoshi. A brilliant mind whose contributions to the early development of Bitcoin will always be remembered.
Finney’s proximity to Bitcoin’s early development makes him one of the main suspects in being the creator of Bitcoin. It is conceivable that he used the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto to maintain attention on the project.
Another significant link Hal Finney shares with the creator of Bitcoin is that Satoshi Nakamoto’s disappearance from the project coincides with Finney’s SLA progression. Finney was initially diagnosed with ALS in August 2009, seven months after the launch of the Bitcoin blockchain. He eventually succumbed to the disease in August 2014. Whatever the truth, his contributions to Bitcoin helped make Bitcoin what it is today.
2. Nick Szabo
Nick Szabo is a potential candidate to be the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. He is a computer scientist, cryptographer, cypherpunk and has worked closely on pre-Bitcoin digital currency projects. He is also credited with first developing the concept of smart contracts in 1996 for contract law and digitally extraneous e-commerce protocols.
After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in computer science in 1989, Szabo went to work for David Chaum at DigiCash Inc. Here he was directly exposed to cryptographic protocols that would secure and keep transactions anonymous for digital payments.
Szabo’s familiarity in working with digital currencies and the technical difficulties they present make him a strong candidate to be the creator of Bitcoin. However, his cypherpunk background and history of working with anonymous payments at DigitCash have led some to believe that he wished to remain anonymous.
3. Craig Wright
Finding someone more obnoxious in the Bitcoin community than Craig Wright is difficult. Where every other candidate on this list has denied being the creator of Bitcoin, Craig Wright has embraced the title and filed defamation lawsuits against those who would suggest otherwise.
He is an Australian computer scientist who has worked in the IT industry for OzEmail, K-Mart and the Australian Securities Exchange. He is also responsible for the hard fork on the Bitcoin Cash blockchain known as Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) on November 15, 2018.
His main claim to be Satoshi was through a post he made on his blog in May 2016, where he published a message with a cryptographic signature using private keys created during the early days of Bitcoin that are linked to Satoshi. However, it was later revealed that his blog post and public key encryption had been backdated and most likely fraudulent.
Failing to establish credible evidence, Wright turned to suing anyone who discredited him, including Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and well-known bitcoiners Peter McCormack and Hodlonaut. Unfortunately for Craig Wright, you won’t find many people who really created Bitcoin.
4. Dorian Nakamoto
In March 2014, Newsweek published an article claiming to have solved the riddle. They announced that they believed that the illusory creator of Bitcoin was none other than the 64-year-old Japanese American, Dorian Nakamoto. A California resident who had graduated from California Polytechnic University with a degree in physics and had spent time working on classified defense projects.
His physics education, surname and address come from the same area as Hal Finney. This led many to believe that he was the founder of Bitcoin.
The publication of the Newsweek article sent the crypto community and the mainstream media into a frenzy. The world descended on Dorian Nakamoto, and he was immediately put in the spotlight. Regardless of whether or not he is the creator of Bitcoin, Newsweek’s doxing of his address has upset many Bitcoiners. As a result, Andreas Antonopolous created a compensation fund that collected over 67 BTC for Dorian Nakamoto’s problems.
5. The NSA
This is one of the most outlandish theories about Bitcoin’s creator, but there are a few reasons why it might be considered an option. From a technical point of view, it was the NSA that first developed the SHA-256 hashing algorithm in 2001 which basically underpins Bitcoin’s architecture. Therefore, the creator of Bitcoin should have been familiar with it during software development.
The NSA and the broader U.S. intelligence community would benefit from having a financial infrastructure that could easily move money across borders without the watchful eye of centralized finance and international banks.
Ironically, the opposite can also be considered a reason to support this theory. Every transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain is recorded and visible to everyone. With the assistance of blockchain forensic providers, the US intelligence community would be able to actively and reliably record every transaction made by anyone they choose.