Craig Wright

Who Is Craig Wright?

Craig Wright (b.1970) is an Australian computer scientist who claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin. According to Wright, he was involved in Bitcoin’s creation along with his friend, the deceased computer security expert Dave Kleiman. He made this claim after Wired magazine and Gizmodo floated the possibility of his being Nakamoto in a December 2015 article. The article quoted from numerous sources, including Wright’s email correspondence and chat transcripts with acquaintances, and referenced business dealings to make its case. 

Wright’s claim generated intrigue and skepticism within the Bitcoin community. Some supported his claim. For example, Gavin Andresen, a director of Bitcoin Foundation who corresponded with Nakamoto while doing initial programming work in Bitcoin, said he was “convinced beyond a reasonable doubt” that Wright was Satoshi. But critics have largely remained unconvinced about Wright’s story and asked for conclusive proof. Security researcher Dan Kaminsky pointed to Wright’s botched attempt to prove his story to buttress his claim that the entire exercise was a scam.

Wright currently works as chief scientist at nChain Inc., a blockchain research and development company.

Key Takeaways

  • Craig Wright is a computer scientist and early contributor to the Bitcoin project.
  • Wright has asserted that he is the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym for Bitcoin's otherwise anonymous creator.
  • Despite his claims, most of the cryptocurrency community either rejects or remains highly skeptical of Craig Wright being Satoshi.

Is Craig Wright Satoshi?

Wired magazine and tech news site Gizmodo were the first publications to suggest that Wright invented Bitcoin. Wired based its claim on an assortment of evidence, from a trove of cached documents to deleted blog posts on Wright’s personal site to emails passed onto the editors from his acquaintances.

The Case for Wright As Satoshi 

According to the publication, Wright used the same email address as Nakamoto for correspondence. Gizmodo also published emails from Wright lobbying for regulatory acceptance of Bitcoin to political figures and government agencies. In the emails, he alluded to the possibility of resuscitating Nakamoto, who disappeared after revealing the existence of Bitcoin, to make a case for the cryptocurrency. “Would our Japanese friend have weight coming out of retirement or not?” he wrote. 

Wright is also supposed to have published a blog post announcing Bitcoin’s launch on January 10, 2009. The post, titled “The beta of Bitcoin is live tomorrow,” has since been deleted. In another bit of "proof," Wright claimed in a conversation with his tax lawyers that he has been running Bitcoin since 2009. 

Besides Wright’s posts and correspondence, the publications also pointed to his business interests, which resemble those required to run cryptocurrency mining operations. Through his company, Tulip Trading, Wright is said to control the 1.1 million bitcoins held by Nakamoto. Those bitcoins cannot be moved until 2020, according to a trust fund PDF signed by the late Dave Kleiman, Wired stated.

The Wired article speculated that Wright may be holding on to the stash for future investment purposes. Tulip Trading was also reported to have made the world’s 17th-fastest supercomputer—C01N—that had a speed of 3.52 Petaflops. (One petaflop is 1,000 teraflops or one trillion floating-point operations per second). 

Wright also possessed a streak of anti-authoritarianism like Nakamoto. He subscribed to a cypherphunk mailing list that served to fine-tune and evolve standards for cryptocurrencies. Wright is also a libertarian who recommends a return to gold standards, and a fan of Japanese culture.   

Verifying Wright’s Claims 

According to cryptography experts, Wright needs to perform either of the following two tasks in order to back up his claim of being Nakamoto. He could conduct a transaction using bitcoins using Nakamoto’s private key. Or he could cryptographically “sign” a message using the same set of keys. (A message signed with a private key is cryptographically secure and can only be unlocked with a corresponding public key). 

Bitcoin Foundation’s Gavin Andresen met Craig Wright in 2016 at a hotel in London to ascertain proof regarding his claims. During his meeting with Andresen, Wright signed a message—“Gavin’s favorite number is eleven”—with his initials and a private key from one of the first 50 bitcoin blocks ever mined.

Wright signed the message on his own laptop and transferred it onto a brand new computer using a USB stick owned by Andresen. After an initial hiccup, during which Andresen realized they had forgotten to add Wright’s initials, the signature was verified by Bitcoin’s software Electrum. “I believe Craig Steven Wright is the person who invented Bitcoin,” Andresen proclaimed on his website the following day. 

Jon Matoni, another director of the Bitcoin Foundation, also claims to have witnessed cryptographic proof that Wright is Satoshi when the former signed a message using a key from Bitcoin’s first and ninth blocks. “The social evidence, including his unique personality, early emails that I received, and early drafts of the Bitcoin white paper, points to Craig as the creator,” Matoni wrote in a Medium post.  

Dubious Claims 

But Wright’s attempt to publicly prove himself as a creator of Bitcoin failed. The day after his private demonstration with Andresen, Wright posted a message on Bitcoin’s public blockchain with text from French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The document was incomplete and signed with a private key that was supposed to extract the full version. Security researcher Dan Kaminsky found that Wright’s key extracted to transaction data from 2009, which had Satoshi’s publicly-available signature from parts of the blockchain. 

Critics have also analyzed other evidence and found Wright's claim wanting. Wright’s PGP keys were created in 2009 and could be traced back to Satoshi Nakamoto’s email address. Both Wired and Gizmodo claim this as an important part of their case for Wright being Nakamoto. But Motherboard, a Vice publication, debunked that theory. PGP keys can be backdated and also fixed to point to anyone’s email address. 

Adding to the murkiness are accusations that Craig Wright misrepresented his academic credentials and lied about his company’s partnerships. In an earlier version of his profile on LinkedIn, the job networking site, Wright stated that he had earned a doctorate from Charles Sturt University in Australia. But the University told Forbes that it had not awarded a doctorate to him.

Cloudcroft, Wright’s company, also claimed to have partnered with Silicon Graphics International, a high-performance computing firm that was subsequently acquired by Hewlett-Packard, to develop two supercomputers that are listed among the world’s top 500. But SGI denied that Cloudcroft was a customer and said it had no record of the C01N supercomputer.