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Estonian cryptographer rejects claims alleging he created bitcoin

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Whoever created bitcoin is worth some €12.3 billion at the currency's current value.
Whoever created bitcoin is worth some €12.3 billion at the currency's current value. Source: (Reuters/Scanpix)

An American jurist is convinced that Estonian cryptographer Helger Lipmaa can be identified as cryptocurrency bitcoin's creator. Lipmaa himself rejects the idea. The question of the real identity of the digital currency's creator is of some interest, as they would be worth some €12.3 billion at bitcoin's current value.

Los Angeles lawyer Justin Sobaje is convinced that Helger Lipmaa is the creator of bitcoin, and says he has analyses and studies that prove it.

This would mean that Lipmaa is the individual behind Internet nom de guerre Satoshi Nakamoto, the handle used by the person or people who created bitcoin's original reference implementation, the standard from which the cryptocurrency has since grown.

Nakamoto published a paper in October 2008 that first described bitcoin, and followed this with the release of the first bitcoin software some three months later. He (or they) remained involved in the project personally until 2010, when others took over.

Creator's bitcoin reserves worth billions of euros

As the original bitcoin miner, Nakamoto held a large amount of the digital currency. Sources put Nakamoto's stock at around one million and claim that apart from test transactions, hardly any of it was ever spent.

At the cryptocurrency's current value even after its recent crash, this means Nakamoto's reserves are worth more than €12.3 billion.

According to daily Postimees, Sobaje is convinced that senior researcher of the University of Tartu's computer science institute, Helger Lipmaa, is Satoshi Nakamoto.

Lawyer presents circumstantial evidence that Lipmaa is Nakamoto

Postimees reported on Friday that Sobaje's theory that Lipmaa is Nakamoto is based on Lipmaa's great expertise in the field of time-stamp technology. More precisely, he thinks that the first paper published by Nakamoto in 2008 was written by Lipmaa, also pointing to similarities in the way both use punctuation marks.

The author of that paper would have needed very advanced knowledge both of time-stamp technology and hash trees, two aspects of computer science Lipmaa has written about. In the late 1990s, Lipmaa's work concentrated on this field, Sobaje wrote in his email to Postimees.

Another hint that Lipmaa was Nakamoto could be found in the work the first paper on bitcoin referred to. Of eight instances the 2008 Nakamoto paper referred to, Lipmaa's own 1999 doctoral thesis also mentioned three, Sobaje said.

Lipmaa had also mentioned two more articles on his website that Nakamoto referred to in his first paper, which brings the number of references to five out of eight.

"Satoshi was an experienced C++ programmer. Lipmaa created a time-stamp program when he worked for Cybernetica," Postimees quoted Sobaje.

All of this meant Lipmaa was extremely gifted, Sobaje wrote, and also pointed to the fact that he had scored highly in math olympics when he was still in secondary school as well as finished his university studies in just three years.

Nakamoto was said to be extremely intelligent. Lipmaa had stated in the past that he has an IQ of 162 himself, Sobaje claimed.

Handle based on names of three Japanese cryptographers, says Sobaje

Additional evidence, according to the lawyer, includes Lipmaa's birth date, which was very close to Nakamoto's supposed birthday on Apr. 5, 1975. Lipmaa was born on Apr. 8, 1972: subtract three days and add three years, and there it is, Nakamoto's supposed birth date.

Sobaje also has what he thinks is evidence for how Lipmaa came up with the Japanese handle. On Lipmaa's website, three Japanese scientists are mentioned: Satoshi Obana, Junko Nakajima, and Takeshi Okamoto. Lipmaa helped himself to parts of these three names to come up with the Satoshi Nakamoto handle, Sobaje thinks.

Lipmaa also lectured in the United Kingdom for two years, which would explain Nakamoto's very good English, he added.

A gap in Lipmaa's blog entries that the scientist explained with having had too much to do also fell right into the timespan when the URL was registered. Then Nakamoto was noticeably absent in September and December 2008: Lipmaa had been busy with conferences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand.

Also, when Nakamoto's online activity picked up in 2008, Lipmaa closed his own blog.

Lipmaa rejects Sobaje's claims

Helger Lipmaa, commenting on the matter to Postimees, rejects the idea. "I'm certainly not Satoshi and I don't understand how he got to my name of all things," he said, adding that bitcoin's original creator wasn't a cryptographer.

Sobaje had simply stumbled upon the connection between blockchain and time-stamp technology, a connection that had earlier been underappreciated and that he was glad now got public attention, Lipmaa told the paper.

He also pointed out that though Sobaje seemed to have had a close look at the 1990s, he had overlooked an article Lipmaa published in 1998 together with Ahto Buldas, Jan Willemson, and Peeter Laud.

Buldas today is a professor at the Tallinn University of Technology. Though he doesn't want to exclude the possibility that Lipmaa is behind the Nakamoto handle, he points out that the field of time-stamp technology was very small back in the day, and that a certain number of names necessarily showed up in many places because of that fact. The same applied to the early stages of development of the blockchain technology.

Hunt for Nakamoto continues

Despite the Japanese name, those after Nakamoto's true identity don't believe the digital currency's creator to actually be Japanese. Theories about the origin of bitcoin have included the names of several American and European cryptographers, computer scientists, and programmers.

Editor: Dario Cavegn


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