Someone has taken over the email account belonging to Bitcoin’s secretive creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, and says he will sell his secrets for money.
The hacker, who told WIRED his name is “Jeffrey” claims to have also obtained information on Nakamoto that could be used to unmask his identity. Jeffrey didn’t tell us much, but when we asked him how he managed to take control over the firstname.lastname@example.org email address that Nakamoto had used for some of his correspondence, he wrote, “The fool used a primary gmx under his full name and had aliases set up underneath it. He’s also alive.”
In a Pastebin post, Jeffrey said he will release Satoshi’s secrets if someone pays 25 bitcoins — about $12,000 to his bitcoin address. He says he has email messages dating back to 2011.
Jeffrey wouldn’t say how he took over Nakamoto’s account and he didn’t respond to many of our questions. But it looks like he leveraged the gmx.com address to take over other Nakamoto accounts. One was used Monday to post a message to the P2P Foundation website. Another to deface an old bitcoin developer page on the Sourceforge open-source coding site.
In his P2P Foundation message, Jeffrey claimed that information about Nakamoto was already being sold online. “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.”
Jeffrey didn’t provide any evidence to substantiate this claims, however. And it’s not clear what information he really has on bitcoin’s creator.
Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared from the public eye back in 2010, so it’s possible that after a few use of disuse, the webmail provider that Nakamoto used, GMX.com, simply allowed somebody new to register the email@example.com email account. Based in the U.K., GMX.com couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
A more intriguing possibility, however, is that the account was hacked. If that’s true, Jeffrey could have access to a treasure trove of private Satoshi Nakamoto emails. And that information could help unmask Nakamoto’s true identity.
Michael Marquardt, the head administrator of the the Bitcointalk.org discussion forum says that Jeffrey sent him an excerpt of an email he’d sent to Nakamoto back in March of this year. “So either the email account was compromised since March,” he says, “or the attacker gained access to old emails when he compromised the account.”
“I’m pretty sure that this is just some troll in it for the laughs,” he added.