Bitcoin Creator and Superagent: What You Should Know About Craig Wright
An overview of one of the most controversial figures in the crypto community.
Recently, it was revealed that Craig Steven Wright, one of the most controversial figures in the crypto community, had filed 114 blockchain patents since 2017. He also quit Twitter, where he would often publish his opinions on anonymity (bad), Bitcoin SV (the real Bitcoin) and other cryptocurrencies (also bad).
He is also known for arguing that he is actually Satoshi Nakamoto, the original creator of Bitcoin. Here’s the complete list of things you should know about Wright.
Wright’s bio is really rich, but hardly verifiable
He was born in October 1970 in Australia, according to registration papers of one of his many companies. As per a Business Insider article citing his now-edited LinkedIn profile, Wright graduated from Brisbane's Padua Catholic College in 1987. In the early 1990s, he worked as a sauce cook, “having trained in French cuisine,” and spent three years working with a catering company.
Wright was reportedly studying at the University of Queensland while working as a chef. He initially attended engineering classes, but switched to computer science in his fourth year.
In 1996, as per his earlier LinkedIn bio, he began working at Ozemail, where he was "managing a bunch of engineers," thus starting his eventful career in tech. However, according to a 2007 Computerworld article, he began working in IT when he joined K-Mart in 1985 — which would have been even before he finished high school.
In April 1997, Wright says he joined the Australian Stock Exchange, maintaining security and firewalls. In November the same year, he launched a company called DeMorgan, described as "a pre-IPO Australian listed company focused on alternative currency, next generation banking and reputational and educational products with a focus on security and creating a simple user experience."
In fact, up until July 2015, Morgan was the CEO of about 15 companies. As the Guardian points out, in the space of a week, he resigned as director from Cloudcroft Pty Ltd, Coin-Exch Pty Ltd, Daso Pty Ltd, Demorgan Holdings Pty Ltd, Demorgan Ltd, Denariuz, Ezas Pty Ltd, Integyrz Pty Ltd, Misfit Games Pty Ltd, Interconnected Research Pty Ltd, Zuhl Pty Ltd and Pholus Pty Ltd, and remained the director of just three companies: Hotwire Preemptive Intelligence Pty Ltd, Panopticrypt Pty Ltd and Hotwire PE Employee Share Plan Pty Ltd. Currently, his LinkedIn only features a startup called nChain, where he has allegedly been working as a “chief scientist” since June 2015.
Wright seems to be a man of libertarian views. According to the Cypherpunk mailing list archive, in September 1996, Wright wrote that he had developed cancer during his years at university and took a loan to pay for medical treatment because the health insurance didn’t cover it. He then mentioned that he served in the military and worked at a gas station “even though I am an engineer,” adding:
“So why and for what reason should I have to pay several 10's of thousands each year to support others. I have never taken help from the government, I do not feel I should have to pay as well. And what am I paying for...to protect the status quo. I believe that there is more than enough help for ppl available. They just need to get off their butts and work.”
In sum, Wright’s biography seems to be considerably replete and busy — or, at least, he portrays it that way. On top of having two PhDs, Wright wields numerous certifications in computer forensics and information technology (IT). In February, he published two Medium articles in which he claimed to have worked as an “agent of influence” in Venezuela and Colombia. Picturing himself as a James Bond-esque character fighting terrorism and evil, Wright says he was “shot twice” during the operation. Also, at some point, he claims that he “was a pastor once.”
According to his story, the Australian entrepreneur came back from South America to witness Bitcoin — which he created (more about that below) — being used on the darknet.
“I discovered the creation I had given birth to, something I designed to bring light was being used for all the worst reasons. Not only drugs, but people. Anonymity is a curse. Nothing good comes of it.”
Wright has several times claimed that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, and refused to provide sufficient proof
Wright become a known figure in crypto community after media reports linking his identity to Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, surfaced in late 2015. Previously, in 2014, one of his few reported links to cryptocurrencies was that he tried launching the world’s first Bitcoin bank.
Thus, in December 2015, Wired and Gizmodo reported within hours of each other that the Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur might be the creator of the world’s largest cryptocurrency.
The Wired story claimed that Wright "either invented bitcoin or is a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did." It was based on documents and emails that were purportedly leaked by “an anonymous source close to Wright” to an independent security researcher Gwern Branwen, who co-wrote the article with Wired author Andy Greenberg.
Similarly, Gizmodo ran a story that featured documents allegedly obtained by a hacker who accessed Wright's email accounts, claiming that Satoshi Nakamoto was a joint pseudonym for Craig Steven Wright and his friend, computer forensics analyst and cybersecurity specialist David Kleiman, who died in 2013.
Moreover, on the same day the articles were published, Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided Wright’s house in the Sydney suburb of Gordon. However, the AFP clarified that the operation was not related to the Bitcoin claims.
A substantial part of the evidence presented in the reports — along with Wright’s previous claims — was soon proved false. First, Wright's company Cloudcroft had declared to have two supercomputers, one of which allegedly produced by computer manufacturer SGI. However, SGI soon clarified that "Cloudcroft has never been an SGI customer and SGI has no relationship with Cloudcroft CEO Craig Steven Wright."
Further, Wright had listed two PhDs on his LinkedIn page, including one from Charles Sturt University. Eventually, Forbes contacted the university and found out that it hadn’t granted Wright any PhDs, although it gave him three master's degrees in networking and systems administration, management (IT), and information systems security. Wright was, however, awarded with a doctorate degree by Charles Sturt University later in 2017.
Also, a technical analysis of two PGP public keys attributed to Wright, but also linked to Satoshi Nakamoto, showed that they were created more recently than the documents in which they were featured.
Finally, a number of posts in Wright's now-deleted blog that seemed to portray him as a person who was directly involved in Bitcoin’s creation had been backdated or edited; the archived versions of the posts from 2013 show none of those breadcrumbs that Wright could have planted to mislead the media into thinking he is Satoshi.
After the aforementioned stories went live, Wright promptly took down his social media accounts and disappeared for several months. On May 2, 2016, he came back (he now lives in London, United Kingdom, according to his LinkedIn profile) and publicly declared that he is the creator of Bitcoin. Later on in the same month, Wright published a sentimental apology piece where he refused to publish the proof of access to one of the earliest Bitcoin keys, saying he doesn’t have the “courage” do it.
However, Wright still claims to be the pseudonymous Bitcoin creator. Just last month, the entrepreneur filed two near-identical comment letters to the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in which he again declared that he is Satoshi. The documents were submitted in response to the agency’s request for industry input and feedback on Ethereum’s (ETH) mechanics and market.
Specifically, Wright wrote that he worked “under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto,” and "completed a project [...] started in 1997 that was filed with the Australian government in part under an AusIndustry project registered with the Dept. of Innovation as BlackNet.”
BlackNet — an alleged precursor to Bitcoin — was submitted to the Australian government in 2001, according to one of Wright’s tweets (he deleted his Twitter profile earlier this month).
On Reddit, user Skoopitup argued that the BlackNet paper that Wright supposedly submitted in 2001 largely copied the official Bitcoin white paper (published October 2008), which notably contained significant corrections to an earlier draft that had been shared by Satoshi earlier in August 2008.
In his remaining comments to the CFTC, Wright wrote:
“The amount of misunderstanding and fallacious information that has been propagated concerning bitcoin [...] has resulted in my choice to start to become more public. The system I created was designed in part to end fraud as best as that can be done with any technology. The lack of understanding [...] has resulted in [...] a dissemination of old scams.”
The Australian entrepreneur still hasn’t signed a message with the key associated with Bitcoin's genesis block, which could be seen as strong evidence of him actually being Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright played a key role in the BCH hash wars — and now claims that Bitcoin SV is the original Bitcoin
The BCH network performs hard forks as part of scheduled protocol upgrades. The fork scheduled for Nov. 15, 2018, however, was disrupted by a competing proposal that was not compatible with the original roadmap. As a result, the BCH community was split into three fractions: Bitcoin ABC, Bitcoin Unlimited and Bitcoin SV.
Craig Wright lead the Bitcoin SV team, whose goal was to restore “the original Satoshi protocol” by changing the current BCH structure. Specifically, that involved entirely overwriting the network scripts of Bitcoin ABC and increasing the block size of BCH from 32MB to a maximum of 128MB in order to increase network capacity and scale. Bitcoin SV’s cryptocurrency design was made by Wright’s nChain company.
At some point, after Jihan Wu, co-founder of major crypto miner and manufacturer Bitmain, who supported the Bitcoin ABC team, accused Wright of being a Blockstream spy and a “fake Satoshi.” In response, the computer scientist entered a verbal fight. Specifically, Wright tagged Roger Ver — another ABC proponent — and Bitmain with bankruptcy threats and accusations of being engaged in Silk Road machinations and child pornography.
Even though Bitcoin ABC essentially won the so-called “hash wars” and secured the original BCH ticker, Bitcoin SV lives on. In late February, Bitcoin SV’s value rose 20 percent, driving it into the top-10 largest cryptocurrencies by market cap. As of press time, Bitcoin SV is the 12th-largest token, with a market cap of $1.5 million, according to CoinMarketCap.
Craigh Wright has a lot of blockchain patents
According to the publication Hard Fork, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has published 155 patents applications filed by Wright — all of which were submitted through his company nChain. Thirty-five of those were published this year. The earliest document date relates to Aug. 31, 2017.
The majority of those applications mention blockchain. Specifically, Hard Fork writes, the term “blockchain” was used 114 times in patent titles. “Cryptocurrency,” in turn, is only featured six times, while “Bitcoin” is not mentioned at all.
Wright has written about his patents quest via Twitter (which has been deleted). According to the screenshots cited by Hard Fork, Wright decided to file his patents in Europe because it was “harder”:
“Once we have the EU, we have the PCT [Patent Cooperation Treaty] in the USA. The US is simpler.”
The Patent Cooperation Treaty has been signed by 152 countries. After filing one international patent application under the PCT, applicants can get simultaneously protection for their inventions in many countries.
As per Bloomberg, business-wise blockchain patents “are an essential ingredient for companies looking to reshape the financial services industry or spawn profitable cryptocurrency-related businesses.” Basically, such patents help companies attract investment, protect property rights and collect monopoly profits from other companies using their inventions.
It’s been argued that Wright is filing patents without the intent of actually using them, but instead to demand large payouts from companies which happen to use similar technologies in their line of work. As Marc Kaufman, an attorney who co-chairs the Blockchain Intellectual Property Council at the U.S. Chamber of Digital Commerce, told Fortune:
“His tactics and activities have all the marks of being a patent assertion entity or what’s pejoratively known as a troll. I’m not aware of his companies having any products.”
Craig Wright is being sued for at least $1 billion
In February 2018, the estate of David Kleiman — Wright’s associate and computer forensics expert who died in April 2013 seemingly of natural causes related to complications from a MRSA infection — brought the suit against Wright to the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida. The estate is represented by Ira Kleiman, David’s brother.
According to court documents that surfaced on Reddit, the plaintiff claims that Wright stole hundreds of thousands of BTC, worth over $5 billion dollars at the time, from David Kleiman’s estate. The statement by the plaintiff alleges that Wright recognized that Kleiman’s friends and family were initially unaware of the wealth he accumulated.
Specifically, the statement reads, Wright “forged a series of contracts that purported to transfer Dave’s assets to Craig and/or companies controlled by him. Craig backdated these contracts and forged Dave’s signature on them.”
Wright contacted Kleiman’s estate after his associate’s death and disclosed that he and David had worked together to develop blockchain and Bitcoin, according to the plaintiff.
In December 2018, new documents were published online, indicating that the court had rejected repeated requests from the nChain chief scientist to dismiss the lawsuit.
In an amended lawsuit supported by Judge Beth Bloom, a figure of 300,000 BTC ($1.5 billion as of press time) was now circulating.
“The Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a claim for conversion,” the court document confirms, continuing:
“The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant converted at least 300,000 bitcoins upon Dave’s death and transferred them to various international trusts, which was an unauthorized act that deprived the Plaintiffs of the bitcoins therein. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ claim for conversion [...] survives Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.”
Specifically, the court demanded “all documents, communications, and agreements that support his [Jeff’s] personal theory that Dave Kleiman is Satoshi Nakamoto.” In a 2018 interview with Bloomberg, Garzik suggested that Dave Kleiman was the original creator of Bitcoin.
Wright doesn’t have a particularly good relationship with crypto community
After some of the aforementioned inconsistencies related to Wright’s claim that he is Satoshi surfaced, the crypto community became increasingly skeptical about the Australian computer scientist. However, some of his claims in regard to other cryptocurrencies certainly didn’t help.
In January 2019, for instance, he called Andreas Antonopoulos, author of the book “Mastering Bitcoin,” a “shitcoin expert.” In February this year, Wright told CNBC Africa’s Ran Neuner in a rather rude form that he knows how to deanonymize and destroy privacy coins Zcash and Monero, which he apparently is going to do “sometime this year”:
“If you have a privacy coin, I will show you that it is basically as private as running through Times Square with your pants around your ankles.”
In October 2017, in a now-deleted tweet, Wright argued that the Lightning Network was “oversold.”
“Given he makes so many non-sequiturs and mistakes, why is this fraud allowed to speak at this conference?”
In response, Wright tweeted: “Oh well.... looks like I broke Vitalek… :) He is a twig.. must remember to be gentle next time ....”
Last week, the Australian entrepreneur deleted his Twitter page after removing over 10,000 tweets.
On March 17, not long before erasing his presence on the social media outlet, Wright tweeted that he will be “taking action aggressively to remove any site that is in error or makes false claims,” referring to people calling him a fraud, among other things.
“You do not have a right to lies under ‘free speech’ nor harassment, nor libel and slander,” he wrote. “If an error is reported in a malicious context concerning me, expect to be living in a barrel when we finish with you.”