The unmasking of Bitcoin founder: A hoax or not?

17 March, 2014

The bitcoin world recently erupted when a story broke in Newsweek purportedly revealing the identity of the mysterious founder of the virtual currency. The story i, written by Leah McGrath Goodman, claimed that the man behind the creation of bitcoin is a model train buff living in southern California.

The concept of bitcoins was first introduced to the world with the submission of an academic paper in 2008 outlining what would become the virtual currency's software code. Written by a person, or possible group of persons by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoins went into use the following year; however, the founder remained intensely private. In 2011, Nakamoto stepped away from the developer community, further fueling the mystery surrounding the creation of Bitcoins. Since then, the digital currency has continued to rise steadily in value and became poised to enter mainstream use within just the last year.

Although many people believed over the years that the name Satoshi Nakamoto was actually a pseudonym, McGrath Goodman recently tracked down a man living in southern California with the name Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto. The resulting article appearing in Newsweek came about following an intensive investigation that included assistance from forensic researchers. As part of the investigation, Goodman and her team followed up on leads for anyone with the name Satoshi Nakamoto, crossing off potential leads that did not pan out, and never researching anyone with any other name. It is certainly worth pointing out that while the signature of bitcoin's founder indicated the name Satoshi Nakamoto, it has long been speculated that the name may have been a pseudonym to possibly even refer to several people.

In the end, Goodman settled on the 64-year old retired engineer living in southern California who was born as Satoshi Nakamoto, but who has gone by the name Dorian Prentice for the last 40 years in an effort to sound more Western. At first glance, the man in question, with a background in technology, would appear to be a good match for the currency's founder. Upon interviewing him, McGrath Goodman stated that the man confirmed he was no longer involved with bitcoin and could not discuss it, possibly referring to a non-disclosure agreement.

Within hours of the story breaking in Newsweek, media began to gather outside Nakamoto's home. Eventually, the man in question emerged and denied being involved with bitcoin in anyway, stating that he knew nothing about it. A retired engineer, Nakamoto later made his way to the Associated Press bureau, where he stated that he only wished to clear his name. The Vancouver Sun ii reported that Nakamoto completed a two-hour interview with the Associated Press, in which he insisted that he had never even heard of bitcoin until his son reported that he had been contacted by a reporter from Newsweek several weeks prior. He further stated that in regards to his comment to Goodman that his words were taken out of context and that he never meant he had been involved with bitcoin at one point but was no longer involved. For its part, Newsweek continued to stand by its story.

According to the Wall Street Journal iii, by the following day, the sensationalism regarding the potential unmasking of bitcoin's founder had made its way online. A message, apparently written by Satoshi Nakamoto, appeared on a peer-to-peer technology forum asserting that he was not Dorian Nakamoto. The message appeared to be sent from the same email address that was used to circulate the white paper in 2008 proposing the creation of bitcoin. Speculation quickly ran rampant that the real founder of bitcoin had stepped forward to set the record straight.

Yet, CNBC reported that Nakamoto's brother stated in an interview that if asked, his sibling would likely deny everything and never admit to starting bitcoin, a prediction that ultimately proved to be true. While that certainly does not conclusively prove that Nakamoto is the founder of bitcoin, it does give pause for consideration.

The story published by Newsweek would certainly not be the first attempt to track down the mysterious creator of bitcoin. Over the years, the media has attempted to uncover the identity of bitcoin's founder multiple times, each time meeting with failure.

For the moment, the question of whether the 64-year old retired engineer living in a modest home in southern California is actually the founder of bitcoin has yet to be definitively answered. Whoever, the real Satoshi Nakamoto may be, the founder of bitcoin is certainly responsible for creating one of the most unique introductions to modern society. Without Satoshi, bitcoin protocol most certainly would not exist. While bitcoin has experienced setbacks in recent months, the virtual currency is still making headway toward becoming a mainstream form of payment and will likely continue to exist well beyond its original creator, whoever that may be.


i) Newsweek. The Face Behind Bitcoin

ii) Vancouver Sun. Bitcoin mystery deepens as man pegged as founder insists: 'I got nothing to do with it'.

iii) Wall Street Journal. For Bitcoin Sleuths, Things Get Curiouser and Curiouser