The Ledger: Satoshi Wannabes, Bitcoin’s Role in Russian Election Interference, Vitalik Clapping
Satoshi Nakamoto tweeted at me last week.
The previous week, the same person had emailed me, as he—or she, or they—has been doing since April, claiming to be the creator of Bitcoin and describing a forthcoming book that would supposedly “explain what happened to us and why we left and also tell our story from our viewpoint.”
This time, though, the self-proclaimed Satoshi, emailing from a mybitcoincenter.com domain, was trying to disclaim credit for something that was making waves in the cryptocurrency community: An online missive June 29, signed by a Satoshi Nakamoto and posted on the site nakamotofamilyfoundation.org, announcing an autobiography. A Bloomberg article the following day also ran excerpts of the book that had been released on the site. The listed email for the purported book author: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Satoshi was having none of it. “Please inform your editors that the publication recently mentioned on Bloomberg is not authentic,” read the subject line of the email, sent the evening of June 30. It continued: “Dear Jen, Its Satoshi Nakamoto. You read my emails and my past writings and therefore must know that in no realm of possibility is that information released recently affiliated with myself or any member of our group.”
Two weeks earlier, this Satoshi had emailed me a “preview” of the book coming fall 2018, complete with a cover mockup showing the title, The Genesis Block: The Proof of Work.
Of course, I hadn’t responded to this email, or any others, since April, when it became clear to me that this Satoshi wannabe was likely wasting my time. In my first reply, I demanded proof that this author was indeed Satoshi Nakamoto.
I asked for Satoshi’s cryptographic signature; I asked for proof my pen pal held the private keys; I asked Satoshi to convince me in any way possible. I even asked for Satoshi’s Twitter handle, once it became clear that this person was closely following my tweets. (My follower finally did reveal at least his Twitter persona last week, when he took to the platform to gripe again about a “book-off” with the new rival author.)
The responses that came back, and the emails that followed, were frequently over 1000 words, and read like part nonsense and part fan fiction— an elaborate (and quite entertaining) imagining of what had caused Bitcoin’s founding father to go silent and retreat from the community, and why no one has ever been able to prove Nakamoto’s true identity.
“If there was a key left behind a ski mask and AK -47 would be the ultimate key,” went the cryptic explanation (suggesting some sort of heist) of why this Satoshi didn’t have access to the private keys to unlock the original Bitcoin wallet, containing more than 1 million Bitcoins that have never been moved.
In the writings, there were several tip-offs that this Satoshi was almost surely an imposter. There was the missing punctuation—a pattern of unsophisticated grammar and a complete disregard for contractions of “it is,” which requires an apostrophe. The real Satoshi never made such a mistake, as far as I can tell. Then there was a tone of arrogance and combativeness in this Satoshi’s emails that seemed absent in the archive of authentic Satoshi emails and writings. “This is a biblical journey and those who believe they can stop the work of the creator will fall like all others before them,” my Satoshi snarked in one email recently.
But I do believe this fake Satoshi about one thing: The recently published passages of the purported Satoshi Nakamoto book aren’t authentic either. As Bloomberg noted in its introduction to the book excerpt, the news outlet “has been unable to independently verify its authenticity.”
My guess? Neither of these Satoshis is the real deal—though I’d welcome being proven wrong.
After all, the creator of a mighty system for—in his words—transacting electronically “without relying on trust” would not simply ask us to blindly take his word for it, would he?
The Ledger team will be in Aspen, CO for Fortune’s annual Brainstorm Tech conference next week, where several panels will focus on cryptocurrency and fintech. For example, I’ll be talking about blockchain payments with Ripple SVP Asheesh Birla, Stripe CEO Claire Hughes Johnson and IBM’s blockchain lead Bridget van Kralingen on stage at 10:05 a.m. MT on Tuesday, July 17. You can watch the livestream here.
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THE LEDGER’S LATEST
Robinhood Adds Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin in Push to Expand Crypto by Jeff John Roberts
Ripple Hires Facebook Payments Exec and Names New CTO by Jeff John Roberts
Another Crypto Fail: Hackers Steal $23.5 Million from Token Service Bancor by Jeff John Roberts
To the moon… Major League Baseball collectibles go crypto—think baseball cards meet CryptoKitties. Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund makes its first investment. Hypnotists and “crimestoppers” are helping to recover $20 billion in lost Bitcoin. India may not ban cryptocurrency after all. CryptoKitties: there will soon be an app for that. Crypto.com sells for an estimated price of up to $10 million. Binance forecasting $1 billion profits.
.…Rekt: Elon Musk praises “mad skillz” of Ether scambots, misspells Ethereum. World Cup gambling ring with $1.5 billion in crypto gets busted. “Bitcoin Maven” goes to jail. Iran could use cryptocurrency to circumvent U.S. sanctions. The Chinese yuan now makes up less than 1% of Bitcoin trading. Silk Road alleged coconspirator extradited to the U.S. Romania moves to regulate electronic money (read: crypto). Rain in China may have flooded Bitcoin mining equipment.
BALANCING THE LEDGER
Olaf Carlson-Wee, head of Polychain Capital—the largest cryptocurrency hedge fund with $1 billion in assets at last disclosure—dropped by Balancing the Ledger to talk about the tech talent “exodus” out of the Facebooks of the world and into crypto, Tezos controversies, and why the blockchain industry is healthier than Bitcoin prices suggest.
Bitcoin transaction times have spiked this month—to as high as 85 minutes on July 3rd and 43 minutes on Friday. Imagine trying to buy a latte with Bitcoin, only to be stuck at the cash register for almost an hour and a half waiting for payment to go through.
Still, that’s not as long as it took earlier in 2018. Here’s a sampling of how confirmation times for Bitcoin transactions have varied this year:
Bitcoin Average Confirmation Time
January 22, 2018*: 7 days, 23 hours (*all-time high)
February 2: 13 minutes
February 22: 1 day, 3.8 hours
March 16: 7.6 minutes
May 11: 2 hours, 26 minutes
May 24: 6.3 minutes
June 13: 131 minutes
July 3: 85 minutes
July 13: 43 minutes
MEMES AND MUMBLES
Vitalik Clapping. This week, someone who goes by username 1000x uploaded a 33-second video featuring Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin ecstatically applauding an unknown presentation. The setting and context is unclear. But the clip, set to a boisterous and catchy little ditty—featuring the lyrics, sung in accented English, “Vitalik clapping, Vitalik impress”—is guaranteed to make you at least half as happy as Buterin appears in the video.
FOMO NO MO’
Don’t miss out: On Friday, a dozen Russian intelligence officers were indicted by a grand jury in D.C. on charges including hacking the Hillary Clinton campaign in an attempt to influence the presidential election. Among the 11 criminal counts is one alleging a conspiracy “to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”
Here’s the indictment’s explanation of how the Russian hackers allegedly used cryptocurrency to steal and leak emails of Clinton and Democratic committee staffers:
Although the Conspirators caused transactions to be conducted in a variety of currencies, including U.S. dollars, they principally used bitcoin when purchasing servers, registering domains, and otherwise making payments in furtherance of hacking activity. Many of these payments were processed by companies located in the United States that provided payment processing services to hosting companies, domain registrars, and other vendors both international and domestic. The use of bitcoin allowed the Conspirators to avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds….The Conspirators funded the purchase of computer infrastructure for their hacking activity in part by “mining” bitcoin….The pool of bitcoin generated from the GRU’s mining activity was used, for example, to pay a Romanian company to register the domain dcleaks.com through a payment processing company located in the United States.