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Some of the earliest Bitcoin transactions were signed with a private key most people collectively believe belonged to Satoshi Nakamoto. However, many publications propose Craig Wright may have obtained the private key from the real Nakamoto, then embarked on an elaborate hoax to be an impostor to Nakamoto.

What are the most likely ways Craig Wright could have obtained Nakamoto's private key, necessary to carry out this hoax?

Edit Apparently Bitcoin Chief Scientist Gavin Adresen is backtracking on his assertion that Mr Write demonstrated he is in possession of private keys owned by Nakamoto. So the premise of the question is likely not true.

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  • So did he brute force a private key which would be compatible with the public key and the old encrypted message to yield the reused decrypted message? I'm looking for a short summary of how the hoax worked, or a link to an article explaining this. – steampowered May 3 '16 at 17:27
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    It appears that the hoax "worked" because of the corroboration of several other notable Bitcoin personalities: Gavin Andresen and Jon Matonis. Why they would choose to come forward with this belief at this time is unknown, but even cursory technical analysis indicates that the claim by Craig Wright is a slight of hand no more sophisticated than palming a quarter and then procuring it from the ear of a toddler. – Jeff Meden May 3 '16 at 17:35
  • If he didn't decrypt anything, then why do so many people believe him? I thought he offered some kind of crptographic proof, since non-technical media said he did and Bitcoin developers endorsed their claims. – steampowered May 3 '16 at 17:57
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    "many publications propose Craig Wright may have obtained the private key from the real Nakamoto" - [citation needed]. Who has proposed that? No one credible has suggested this, to my knowledge. This seems like a question based on a faulty premise. Please edit to link to reputable articles which are claiming that (and double-check that that's actually what they are claiming). – D.W. May 4 '16 at 1:08
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Wright did not obtain Nakamoto's private key.

What he did provide as evidence was a signature from one of the early bitcoin transactions. However, that signature is from the blockchain and can be looked up by anyone.

Wright was able to fool some people from the mainstream media who don't really understand the technical details, but the security community debunked it quite quickly. Security Researcher Dan Kaminsky tweeted on May 2nd:

Satoshi signed a transaction in 2009. Wright copied that specific signature and tried to pass it off as new.

Also, the official Twitter account of the Bitcoin Core Project tweeted on May 2nd:

There is currently no publicly available cryptographic proof that anyone in particular is Bitcoin's creator.

By the way, The Economist, the original news outlet who started spreading the claim, has now published a correction.

A proper proof of Nakamoto's identity would, for example, be a message reading "My real name is Craig Wright" signed with the Satoshi Nakamoto PGP key or a new bitcoin transaction from a wallet confirmed to be owned by Satoshi Nakamoto. But so far this hasn't happened.

Gavin Adresen, chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, claimed to have seen such proof by Wright, but has not posted that proof publicly. Why he would make such a claim without providing any evidence whatsoever for it and expects the world to just trust his word is a mystery. Convincing people of a miracle solely by claiming very sincerely that you saw it with your own eyes might work in certain religious circles, but certainly not in the more scientifically inclined crypto community.

By the way: I am the real Satoshi Nakamoto. Prove me wrong.

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    So he simply copied a string of characters out of the historical record and tried to pass this off as new? Why did so many people say doing that was cryptographic evidence? – steampowered May 3 '16 at 17:59
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    @steampowered As I said: because they are journalists, not IT professionals, and didn't understand what they were talking about. Those who actually understood it debunked it very quickly, but as you know a lie usually travels faster than the truth. – Philipp May 3 '16 at 18:10
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    This one time, at band camp, I invented a global cryptocurrency. – Polynomial May 3 '16 at 19:02
  • @Kevin If the claim is true, then he could prove it. It doesn't hurt to ask him for additional information. If he provides an actual proof it can be verified. And if he doesn't, there will be thousands of people ready to shoot down whatever information he does provide. – kasperd May 4 '16 at 9:36
  • Wow I can't believe the real Satoshi Nakamoto answered a question on Stack Exchange! – JMac Apr 15 at 17:09
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He didn't.

What people are saying is that he "used a signature from early in the block chain as evidence" which still sounds like he could prove he made an early block signature, even if it wasn't the genesis block, but that's not the case. What he did, as far as I get it, was like taking an old book and taking a picture of the author's signature and go "look bros I got da sig".

The big question is why nobody caught on before the story was published and the media went haywire. This is not even remotely well done, it's the stupidest kind of copying that I'd expect a child to see through.

It might have been well done if he had brute force created key pairs that produced a signature that looks like the real thing, e.g. a signature 0f896fd7cb4 when the real one is 0f89b03fcb4. That at least looks legit on first glance. This "proof" did not even include any form of signatures, merely a copy of an existing one, like taking a picture of a paper signature.

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