recommended reading

Analysis: Why It Doesn’t Matter Who Invented Bitcoin


First, Newsweek "exposed" the creator of bitcoin. Then the Internet lost its mind.

The magazine published its investigative feature Thursday, claiming that it had, thanks to some intrepid sleuthing, located Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious Japanese-American who purportedly invented the cryptocurrency.

"Satoshi Nakamoto" had long been thought to be a pseudonym for a person or group of programmers who in 2008 launched the digital-currency craze with a nine-page paper outlining a "purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash," which was introduced shortly thereafter.

Newsweek's yarn, which portrays a terse, hermetic man who has chosen to sit on hundreds of millions of dollars in bitcoin instead of cashing in, is fascinating, if for nothing else but a case study in how to awaken the angry, tech-savvy corner of the Internet.

But whether the father of bitcoin is an unassuming libertarian residing in Los Angeles's San Bernardino foothills or some genius kid hacker based in Tokyo likely does little to change the regulatory trajectory of bitcoin and other volatile virtual currencies. Regulators still have to figure out how to oversee the burgeoning industry, the IRS still has to figure out how to tax it, and lawmakers still need to figure out how they feel about it.

"There's nothing more, there's nothing different, they're still saying they have to find a way to regulate it, etc., etc.," said Barrie VanBrackle, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who specializes in payments systems.

Knowing Satoshi Nakamoto's real identity also doesn't change the basic regulatory challenge in overseeing the currency—there is no central issuer of bitcoin, which is "mined" by computers as they solve complex math problems, and the currency lacks a network operator, as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen explained last month.

But that didn't stop Reddit, the online community, from predictably pouncing on the story. Users, many of them self-described bitcoin devotees, swiftly questioned the story's veracity and the integrity of journalist Leah McGrath Goodman, with one thread racking up more than 1,500 comments.

"Here you know a guy has a way to securely and semi-anonymously transfer hundreds of millions of dollars AND you have the location and names of all his children," user caducus wrote. "Do you think that maybe you've just made them a target for kidnapping? When someone has made every effort to remain 100% unknown this sort of callous disregard for their safety and privacy just blows my mind."

Another user, pegasaur, chimed in: "Shame that they didn't bother to respect his privacy at all. This article reveals so much about him that he's now easy to find. In just a few minutes on Google, you can get the house up on Google Maps."

To be fair, the concerns shouted from the bowels of the Internet are not so much about the future of bitcoin but about the potential ethical and privacy violations wrought by a publication attempting to revive itself.

But whether Newsweek "doxxed" bitcoin's father or not, his gift to alternative-currency zealots remains intact. And one investigative story isn't about to change that.

Catherine Hollander contributed to this article.

(Image via Lightboxx/

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.