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. In 2021, Andresen retracted his earlier claim, saying that it was a mistake.
Wright currently works as chief scientist at nChain Inc., a blockchain research and development company.
- 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.
Early Career and Education
Craig Wright was born in Australia in 1970. He graduated from high school in Brisbane in 1987.
He claims to have earned several academic degrees and certifications, including masters degrees in quantitative finance (from University of London-SOAS), law (University of Northumbria), statistics (University of Newcastle, Australia), information security systems (Charles Sturt University), network & systems administration (Charles Sturt University), IT management (Charles Sturt University), IS engineering (Sans Technology Institute), and political science (Liberty University). He also claims to have received a doctorate in business administration (from Grand Canyon University) and a Ph.D. (Charles Sturt University), a doctorate in theology (United Theological College).
He has been a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Charles Sturt University, authored many articles, academic papers, and books, and has spoken publicly at conferences on IT, security, Bitcoin, and other topics relating to digital currency.
Some have called out Wright for either embellishing or lying about his academic credentials. In fact, Charles Sturt University in Sydney, Australia sent Forbes a statement in 2015 stating, "Mr Wright has not been awarded a PhD from CSU."
Aside from Bitcoin-related matters, Wright claims that he has personally conducted in excess of 1,200 engagements related to IT security for more than 120 Australian and international organizations in the private and government sectors. Dr. Wright claims to have also held senior executive positions with companies focused on digital currency, digital forensics, and IT security, including holding the title of vice president of the Centre for Strategic Cyberspace and Security Science.
He has also worked on technology systems that protected the Australian Stock Exchange, and has trained Australian government and corporate departments in SCADA security, cyber warfare, and cyberdefense, and helped design the architecture for the world’s first online casino (Lasseter’s Online in Australia).
Is Craig Wright Satoshi?
Wired magazine and tech news site Gizmodo were the first publications to suggest that Wright invented Bitcoin. Wright also claims to be Satoshi on his personal website. 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 Being 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 the gold standard, 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 bitcoin transaction using Nakamoto’s private key.
- 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.
However, it was later revealed that Wright likely duped Andresen.
The Case Against Wright Being Satoshi
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.
In 2021, Craig Wright appeared in court, where he was the defendant in a lawsuit brought by a former business partner claiming that Wright stole intellectual property and also alleged fraud, theft, and breach of fiduciary duty. At stake was 50% of Wright's verified 1.1 million BTC. The jury found Wright guilty only of intellectual property theft and demanded he pay $100 million in damages. He did not, however, have to relinquish any of his bitcoins.
How Many Degrees Does Craig Wright Hold?
A self-proclaimed "genius," Wright claims to have in excess of 20 academic degrees and certificates. In addition, he holds several more professional certifications and credentials.
What Is Craig Wright's Net Worth?
Wright has been verified to hold approximately 1.1 million bitcoins, worth roughly $25 billion as of June 2022.
Who Sued Craig Wright?
Craig Wright was sued by the estate of his former business partner, David Kleinman, who co-ran the company W&K Info Defense Research with Wright. The Kleiman estate sued Wright for half of the bitcoin in the Tulip Trust (an entity that held over 1 million bitcoin), as well as intellectual property. In the end, the court awarded $100 million to the Kleinman estate but allowed Wright to retain all of the bitcoin.
The Bottom Line
While still claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto, much of the crypto community and media have now decided that these claims are either false or at best unverifiable. Wright furthermore claims that the 'true" bitcoin today is a hard fork of Bitcoin Cash known as Bitcoin SV ("Satoshi's vision"). Even without being Satoshi, it is clear that Wright was an early adopter of Bitcoin and managed to accumulate a substantial amount of it early on. Today, he claims to be a lawyer, banker, economist, pastor, coder, investor, mathematician, stats, and "world-curious".