Bitcoin, a digital currency designed as an alternative to state-backed fiat money, was created in the midst of the 2008 global financial crisis—but no one knows who made it.
The bitcoin price has been climbing steadily over the last decade, making many early adopters overnight millionaires and causing millions more to ask: Who is bitcoin’s creator, someone known only as Satoshi Nakamoto?
Now, amid a surge in bitcoin interest sparked by the global coronavirus pandemic, the eccentric cyber security pioneer John McAfee claims to know the answer. But of course, he’s not telling.
McAfee, the outspoken antivirus software developer-turned curveball U.S. presidential candidate, says he’s 99% sure he knows the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto—the author of the bitcoin white paper, thought to be a pseudonym.
“It was a team of eleven people over a period of five years, that came up, eventually, with [bitcoin],” McAfee told bitcoin and cryptocurrency website Cointelegraph on the virtual sidelines of a now digital blockchain conference, forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic, adding he thinks Craig Wright, a computer scientist who’s repeatedly claimed to be bitcoin’s creator but failed to produce proof, was involved.
“How they decided who would write the paper, I don’t know. But anybody who wants to know who it is—I mean, you know who the options are, you’ve got Craig Wright possibly, I’m not going to name everyone else otherwise you’ll figure out who it is, but somebody wrote the white paper.”
McAfee pointed to two language quirks as helping to narrow down the potential developers: That the author used British English over American English and consistently used two spaces after a period.
McAfee also claimed “the format of the document was identical to documents that [Satoshi Nakamoto] had published professionally”—making it relatively easy for anyone to figure out.
“If you buy a two-hundred dollar authorship program, and you take the white paper and you run it through, and you take any one of the papers that he’s published—all of these people wrote papers by the way, only one comes out with ninety-nine percent probability it’s him.”
Despite that, McAfee said he doesn’t want to reveal who exactly wrote bitcoin’s white paper, as he fears he could “end up destroying an innocent man’s life forever, and probably cause his death.”
“I have spoken to him on the phone, I was actually going to divulge who he was,” McAfee said, adding the author of bitcoin’s white paper convinced him not to reveal it.
McAfee reportedly labelled the coronavirus pandemic a government conspiracy while waving around an AK-47 rifle before making his comments about Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity.
Earlier this year, McAfee reneged on his promise to “eat [his] own dick on national television” if the bitcoin price didn’t hit $500,000 per bitcoin by the end of 2020, calling bitcoin “ancient technology” and lending his support to privacy-focused cryptocurrency monero.
The true identity of bitcoin’s creator, or group of creators, has become one of the internet’s most tantalizing mysteries, with many trying—and so far failing—to crack it.
In 2014, the U.S. magazine Newsweek claimed a Japanese American man living in California, Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, was the bitcoin inventor. A claim he subsequently denied and one that has now been widely disregarded.
Others, such as cryptographic pioneer and the first person to receive a bitcoin transaction, Hal Finney, have been named as possibilities. Forbes put that question to Finney in the months before he died.
Bit gold creator Nick Szabo and bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen have also been linked to the name Satoshi Nakamoto.