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Link between 'Satoshi' bitcoin account and Silk Road dissolves

Israeli researchers defend their paper, while the real account holder blamed sloppy research

By Jeremy Kirk
November 27, 2013 05:36 AM ET

IDG News Service - A research paper speculating Bitcoin's creator may have transferred $60,000 to the Silk Road marketplace has been dispelled, as the account holder in question came forward on Tuesday, denying he is the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto.

Dustin Trammell, a security researcher who is CEO of the vulnerability marketplace ExploitHub, wrote in a blog post that the Israeli researchers failed in their analysis, which was subject to blistering criticism from the bitcoin community.

"I hope this puts to rest any further speculation regarding whether or not I am Satoshi Nakamoto and whether or not I have had any involvement with the Silk Road," Trammell wrote. "I am not and have not."

The paper was written by Adi Shamir and Dorit Ron of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Shamir is a noted cryptographer credited with co-creating the RSA encryption algorithm, which is widely used to protect corporate data.

In an email to IDG News Service, Shamir defended their work, writing that "we were extremely careful in our choice of words and repeatedly stressed that we have no proof."

But later on Wednesday, Shamir wrote in an email that after reading Trammell's blog post, the paper would be revised.

In four paragraphs at the end of their 13-page paper, Shamir and Ron described a 1,000-bitcoin transaction, worth around $60,000 at the time, sent in March. It came from a bitcoin account established just a week after the system launched in 2009, a so-called "founder" account.

Many of the early bitcoin accounts are believed to be controlled by the person who supposedly created Bitcoin, who used "Satoshi Nakamoto" as a pseudonym.

Their analysis claimed the virtual currency eventually ended up in another account belonging to DPR, short for "Dread Pirate Roberts," who controlled the Silk Road marketplace. U.S. federal prosecutors allege DPR is 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, who faces murder-for-hire, narcotics trafficking and computer hacking charges.

Trammell wrote that he sent the 1,000 bitcoins to Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange, "for trading purposes."

"Mt. Gox should be able to easily confirm that they indeed control this destination address," he wrote.

Trammell's explanation is "completely believable, and thus we no longer believe that the very early founder account we identified in the full bitcoin transaction graph belongs to Satoshi Nakamoto," Shamir wrote. "We will revise our paper accordingly."

Although the researchers hedged on the claim, their wording in the paper was strong enough to suggest that they might have spotted something stunning.

"The short path we found suggests (but does not prove) the existence of a surprising link between the two mysterious figures of the Bitcoin community, Satoshi Nakamoto and DPR."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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