Is Nick Szabo the real Satoshi Nakamoto?
Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto leaves his home in Temple City, California denying any involvement in creating bitcoin.Twitter/Adrian Carrasquillo

The search for Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious creator of the digital currency bitcoin, has taken  another twist with research claiming that a former economics professor at George Washington University called Nick Szabo is the real Satoshi Nakamoto.

The mystery surrounding the mysterious creator of bitcoin - known only as Satoshi Nakamoto - reached its peak last month when Newsweek (owned by IBTimes UK parent company IBT Media) published a cover story claiming that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64-year-old Japanese-American living in Temple City, California was the creator of bitcoin.

In the days and weeks that followed the publication of Newsweek's article, the claim was widely debunked and the mystery surrounding the creator of bitcoin continued.

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer decentralised cryptocurrency which doesn't require the use of a traditional banking infrastructure. It was created by an anonymous person - or group of people - who published the bitcoin white paper under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. 

Now, new research by the students and researchers at Aston University's Centre for Forensic Linguistics claims to have identified the person who wrote the original bitcoin white paper and by implication identified the creator of bitcoin.

Nick Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto

According to the research, Nick Szabo is the person who wrote the white paper, as his published writings are the closest linguistically to the white paper, when compared to 10 other people suspected of creating bitcoin.

The study, nicknamed 'Project Bitcoin', was undertaken by a team of 40 final-year forensic linguistics students led by Dr Jack Grieve, Lecturer in Forensic Linguistics at Aston University.

Grieve said: "The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo's writing and the Bitcoin paper is uncanny, none of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match. We are pretty confident that out of the primary suspects Nick Szabo is the main author of the paper, though we can't rule out the possibility that others contributed."

Suspects

Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin Lead Developer
Gavin Andresen, former lead developer of bitcoinTwitter

Among the other 'suspects' investigated by the study were Newsweek suspect Dorian Nakamoto; Gavin Andresen, who until recently was bitcoin's lead developer; Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki, and Irish computer scientist Michael Clear.

The study found Szabo was far and away the closest match, with "a large number of distinctive linguistic traits appearing in both the bitcoin paper and Szabo's blogs and other writings." the similarities included the use of specific phrases such as "trusted third parties" and "for our purposes" along with similarities in relation to the use of commas and hyphenation. 

In total the study looked hundreds of publications from the 11 suspects including 40 academic papers published by Szabo and available on his own website.

This is not the first time that Szabo has been linked as the creator of bitcoin by similarities in his writing. In December a blog entitled LikeInAMirror was published by an anonymous author who also fingered Nick Szabo as the most likely person behind the bitcoin phenomenon.

That author's main tool in identifying Szabo was "reverse textual analysis" where they took the whitepaper published in 2008 and analysed the language and phraseology used in that against writings on the internet, particularly "places which you would expect a cryptography researcher to contribute to."

Szabo has all the right attributes to be considered one of the people involved in creating bitcoin.

He is a person with a long history in the development of decentralised currency and is a former law and economics professor at George Washington University. Szabo also holds a degree in computer science from the University of Washington.

Clear-cut

Grieve says his study "adds to the weight of evidence pointing towards Nick Szabo. The case looks pretty clear-cut. Szabo is an expert in law, finance, cryptography and computer science. He created 'bit gold', a precursor to Bitcoin, and was looking for collaborators in 2008. Did Nick Szabo create Bitcoin? We're not sure, but we think he probably wrote the paper so it's certainly worth a closer look."

The anonymous LikeInAMirror blogger points out several other anomalies which could indicate that Szabo is Nakamoto:

  • No reaction - Szabo had been hugely involved and influential in the whole crypto-currency movement for a decade prior to the launch of bitcoin yet around the time it was gaining momentum he remained virtually silent in public about the developments.
  • No citation - The precursor to bitcoin was bit gold, created by Szabo, yet there is absolutely no mention of it within the whitepaper, despite its obvious influences on bit coin's creations. Other less influential crypto-currencies such as hashcash and b-money are however mentioned.
  • Call for help - In April 2008, just months before the whitepaper was published, Szabo was publicly looking for collaborators on the bit gold project. "[bit gold] would greatly benefit from a demonstration, an experimental market (with e.g. a trusted third party substituted for the complex security that would be needed for a real system). Anybody want to help me code one up?" he wrote on his blog.