Satoshi’s Secret Bitcoin Alert Key Is Widely Available, Says Developer
A Bitcoin software programmer has revealed his knowledge of Satoshi Nakamoto’s secret network alert key, taking a swipe at Dr. Craig Wright in the process. In a tweet, LedgerX developer Bryan Bishop claimed the key — retired but still relatively secret — was “unwittingly copied by many hundreds of Bitcoin copy-cats”.
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The Bitcoin network alert key was kept until late 2016 to broadcast crucial messages to node operators. Satoshi himself created the key but never actually used it — though Gavin Andresen deployed an alert in 2012 for miners to revert to a previous software version after a protocol upgrade went wrong.
Satoshi’s Key Used to Sign Craig Wright Troll Message
On June 15th, 2018, Bishop tweeted the following:
Satoshi alert key's signature of sha256("I am not CSW. Unlike me, he can't sign with the Bitcoin alert key.") -> 304402205d9ee1b1697ce3722b92a0931aae10fb76ab07a624d61b27ba5af39e85a1653d0220520ed2e30ed1c89e5c876a4e7e8f9b04a8b43c3a37b55623cae964b3938f779a https://t.co/JwpEEt2dHI
— Bryan Bishop (@kanzure) June 15, 2018
While knowledge of the key outside a small circle of early Bitcoin identities isn’t really a revelation, it has never been publicly revealed. Bishop’s announcement that it is widespread effectively removes a chance for an imposter to claim he or she was Satoshi Nakamoto simply by having the key.
One reddit user noted in August 2016 that only three people (or online identities) were known to have the key: Satoshi Nakamoto, former core developer Gavin Andresen, and “Theymos” (Michael Marquardt, admin for BitcoinTalk.org and Reddit’s r/Bitcoin.
Therefore, before Bishop’s announcement, someone could potentially have claimed to be Satoshi by possessing the key. It’s not definitive proof of Satoshi-ness, but could have formed part of a campaign to convince the community.
Alert Key Never Used to Back Wright’s Satoshi Claims
Andresen never asked for the key as proof, relying on knowledge of personal information to judge claims. Nor did nChain chief scientist and one-time Satoshi Nakamoto suspect Wright ever attempt to use the alert key to validate his Bitcoin history. In fact, he never used any key at all, backing down from promises to reveal his identity with a transaction from an early Bitcoin block at the last second in August 2016, before a room full of mainstream media reporters.
A common meme, often repeated in news articles and social media posts, is that Wright was “unable” to prove he was Satoshi. In fact, he ultimately refused to do so — leaving open the question of why (if he knew he didn’t have the ability to access Satoshi’s BTC) he would have chosen that final moment to back down, instead of something less public.
Other than scoring credibility points, there’s probably more pain than gain in proving one is Satoshi Nakamoto. Whoever actually controls the private keys to those wallets has an estimated net worth of around 1 million BTC, making them a potential target for criminals and government officials.
Before anyone gets too excited with nefarious plans to sabotage the BTC network with phony alerts, we should note the alert system was retired in November 2016 with Bitcoin version 0.13.10. The final alert, hard-coded into version 0.14.10, simply overrides all other alerts with a warning “Alert Key Compromised”.
The alert key was due to be released to the public in May 2017, but it was postponed. Part of the reason for its retirement were fears the key could have come into the possession of the Japanese police after they began investigating Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles in 2014.
At press time, the true real-life identity (or identities) of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto remains unknown.
Will Satoshi Nakamoto ever be revealed for sure? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
Images via Bitcoin Wiki, Pixabay