A hacker known as “Jeffrey” has seemingly gained control of anonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto’s email account, and Wired reports that they’re offering up personal details in exchange for Bitcoin.
“Satoshi Nakomoto” is the name used by the anonymous developer who created Bitcoin and published details of it online in 2008. It’s unknown whether Nakamoto is a private individual, a group of hackers, or whether their real name really is Satoshi Nakamoto.
In an email to Wired, the hacker said “The fool used a primary gmx [email account] under his full name and had aliases set up underneath it. He’s also alive.”
The hack first emerged after an email was sent last night from the Satoshi Nakamoto email address to someone he had collaborated with in 2010 during Bitcoin’s early days. Bitcoin Forum member “theymos” warned other members that he had received a bizarre email from Nakamoto reading “Michael, send me some coins before I hitman you.”
In a Pastebin post, the hacker requests 25 bitcoin (around $US11,600) in return for revealing more information about the anonymous Bitcoin developer. Partially redacted screenshots of emails are included as proof that the hacker does indeed have access to the email account. This post echoes the technique used by “OriginalGuy,” the porn forum user who leaked the celebrity nude photos. Edited photographs were posted to encourage users to donate bitcoin in return for the full cache of images. There is no suggestion that “Jeffrey” was also behind the iCloud photo leak.
It was initially speculated that the hacker had gained access to the email address by waiting for the account to expire, and then creating a new email account with the same address. This tactic is often used by hackers to take over accounts used by internet celebrities, with a notable example being the January 2009 hack of 4chan’s “Queen” Boxxy. Angry hackers, tired of the notorious forum’s obsession with one teenage girl’s online videos, recreated one of her old email addresses and used it to sign into her YouTube account and delete her videos.
However, Bitcoin developers claim that last night they were sent emails from the Satoshi Nakamoto account that included emails sent to the address in 2011, a sign that the original email account was compromised. If so, this could result in the leak of further emails or more information about the elusive Bitcoin developer.
Interesting, got another forwarded email from “satoshi”, from 2011 – indicates this was a hijacked account, not expired and re-registered.
— Peter Todd (@petertoddbtc) September 9, 2014
Doubts have been cast on the authenticity of the screenshots posted by the hacker after a shipping address was revealed to be fake. While it’s possible that Satoshi Nakamoto intentionally created a fake address to use online, the screenshot may also be a fake intended to solicit bitcoin donations in return for personal information that the hacker doesn’t actually have access to.
“Jeffrey” didn’t stop at gaining access to the Satoshi Nakamoto email account, however. A new message from the original Nakamoto account has been posted in the forum thread where Bitcoin was first introduced to the world. In it, the hacker praises Nakamoto for inventing the digital currency, but warns the developer that his security has been compromised.
Dear Satoshi. Your dox, passwords and IP addresses are being sold on the darknet. Apparently you didn’t configure Tor properly and your IP leaked when you used your email account sometime in 2010. You are not safe. You need to get out of where you are as soon as possible before these people harm you. Thank you for inventing Bitcoin.
The last public message from the anonymous Bitcoin developer was posted on March 7 following a Newsweek cover story that claimed to have unmasked Satoshi Nakamoto. The short message from the developer denied the article’s claims.
Satoshi Nakamoto has proven to be an attractive target for hackers, largely due to rumoured horde of digital currency that he is presumed to own. One estimate places Nakamoto’s fortune at 1 million bitcoin, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.