Blackmail fail

In which the author receives surprising offers from kind strangers
cryptography, Bitcoin, personal
2013-12-102020-11-12 finished certainty: log importance: 2


In Sep­tem­ber 2012, I was ex­torted for $32 for be­ing gw­ern; I de­clined to pay. In No­vem­ber 2013, I called an en­cryp­tion bluff that I was Dread Pi­rate Roberts. In De­cem­ber 2013, a crazy per­son tried to black­mail me for bil­lions of dol­lars for be­ing Satoshi Nakamo­to; I de­clined to pay. In March 2014, the DNM Evo­lu­tion threat­ened to dox me if I did not re­veal in­for­ma­tion about their se­cu­rity vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. In Feb­ru­ary 2015, an Agora user doxed me in an un­ex­pected way and I paid a small boun­ty.

Weird things hap­pen on the In­ter­net, . I have long been in­ter­ested in cryp­to­graphic top­ics, and in June 2011, I be­gan re­search­ing the new dark­net mar­kets (DNMs), as epit­o­mized by (S­R). Be­tween my sus­tained cov­er­age of DNM top­ics, oc­ca­sional in­ter­ven­tions like my Sheep-MarketPlace/BlackMarket-Reloaded bet, and my mi­nor role in the dox­ing of Sheep Mar­ket­Place’s own­er, and my es­says & , I have been some­times ac­cused of be­ing more in­volved than I ap­pear - pos­si­bly Dread Pi­rate Roberts (re­ally Ross Ul­bricht), 1, a high­-level sell­er, a law en­force­ment agent, or other things.

While some­times flat­ter­ing (I wish I was Satoshi Nakamo­to!), these are all quite wrong: I am but an im­pov­er­ished writer who barely makes ends meet, and cer­tainly not a Bit­coin bil­lion­aire or elite C++ P2P crypto pro­gram­mer, though I write about Bitcoin/cryptography/DNMs. Still, some tinge of no­to­ri­ety can be use­ful if it means peo­ple are will­ing to tell me pri­vate in­for­ma­tion. On the other hand, some­times it is plain ir­ri­tat­ing. They don’t al­ways go any­where. Here are some ex­am­ples of things that went nowhere, or at least, not where I wanted them to go.

Pseudonymity bounty

Prompted by my bounty to nwerg, I offered a bounty from 2016 to 2020 of $15 to any­one who can de-anonymize me in a way I do not al­ready know about or which is im­pres­sive; I no longer offer this. (As of De­cem­ber 2017, I paid out 2 boun­ties, and 3 have de­clined pay­ment; for the ~3 ear­lier deanonymiza­tions, I did not have a bounty set up. There have also been a few wrong at­tempts to claim the boun­ty, some sur­pris­ingly con­vinc­ing look­ing.)

2012

Anonymous

10 September

On 2012-09-10, I re­turned from my din­ner to dis­cover in my in­box news of a mes­sage some­one sent me at 4:55PM us­ing my anony­mous feed­back form:

gw­ern
I signed up user­names “gw­ern” and “gw­ern­bran­wen” at pivory.­com
I will re­lease lo­gin info to you for a ran­som.
The ran­som value de­creases over time fol­low­ing ex­po­nen­tial de­cay with a half-life of 365/2=182.5 days.
It starts at 32 USD on 2012-09-11. I’ll al­low a 1 day pre­ci­sion.
Pay­ment is to be sent as Bit­coin us­ing Mt­Gox av­er­age price to 1LtiftPcu3AjTbXf2XFCbvNTaeRFL1yBAy
After 365 days I will start us­ing the ac­counts.
not­g­w­ern@­tor­mail.org

Oh no! I was be­ing ex­torted over a user­name on some fo­rum site called Pivory. Was I go­ing to pay up $32 to res­cue my dop­pel­ganger from the clutches of a sin­is­ter ex­tor­tion­ist? Did he plan to post threats against the Pres­i­dent or child porn on this site to be­smirch my good name? I knew I had to act swiftly to stanch the dam­age!

I told him no.

More pre­cise­ly, I posted the fol­low­ing signed mes­sage to Google+ and a pri­vate mail­ing list, pub­licly com­mit­ting to not pay­ing him a sin­gle satoshi:

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA512

CCing cheshirecats as site owner; CCing OB-NYC as witnesses.

> gwern
> I signed up usernames "gwern" and "gwernbranwen" at pivory.com
> I will release login info to you for a ransom.
> The ransom value decreases over time following exponential decay with a half-life of 365/2=182.5 days.
> It starts at 32 USD on 2012-09-11. I'll allow a 1 day precision.
> Payment is to be sent as Bitcoin using MtGox average price to 1LtiftPcu3AjTbXf2XFCbvNTaeRFL1yBAy
> After 365 days I will start using the accounts.
> notgwern@tormail.org

Your message in my anonymous site feedback form leaves me deeply
amused, and I applaud your courtesy in setting the 365-day ransom at a
modest $8 (2 half-lives from $32); but I'm afraid I must decline your
offer permanently.

Since there are indefinitely many Internet sites which allow user
signups and publicly visible comments, accepting an extortion on any
of them for any amount exposes me to indefinitely large losses. Hence
by backward induction, there is a clear decision-theoretic verdict
against paying you any sum.

- --
gwern
https://www.gwern.net
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.15 (GNU/Linux)

iEYEAREKAAYFAlKuIbAACgkQvpDo5Pfl1oLzlwCgltduvcnKy2GB5Lmz6EtBTknT
fRIAnRtF4DVLmoW8fGAR32fFFeuIqG24
=+rda
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

(See and for back­ground. I think my lit­tle ar­gu­ment may not be quite right, but it’s still clear that a pre­com­mit­ment to not pay­ing in such cir­cum­stances is op­ti­mal for the same rea­son one pre­com­mits to not ne­go­ti­ate with hostage-tak­ers etc.)

Discussion

One cu­ri­ous as­pect was that the pay­ment de­clined with time, rather than, as one would ex­pect, in­crease with time as a penal­ty. Michael O’Kelly in the Google+ com­ments pointed out that the scheme was also in con­flict with /learning:

Am I miss­ing some­thing, or would it make more sense for the ran­som to in­crease ex­po­nen­tial­ly? You will only re­ally be tempted to pay if Pivory be­comes the hot new thing, which be­comes less am­bigu­ous with time.

I the­o­rized that it was not mo­ti­vated by a par­tic­u­lar eco­nomic or de­ci­sion-the­o­retic con­sid­er­a­tion, but more of a psy­cho­log­i­cal hack:

Michael: I fig­ured it was an at­tempt to hack con­ve­nience; if I paid up quick­ly, he’d make the most. Most peo­ple would not be pa­tient enough to wait. (Y­ou’re right that you and I would choose a com­pound­ing strat­e­gy, like any reg­u­lar ex­tor­tion­ist, to in­stead in­cen­tivize quick pay­ment by all sorts of peo­ple.)

Of course, he must not know me very well, be­cause if he did, he would’ve known that I would sim­ply put pay­ment on my cal­en­dar for a year from now and pay as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, or bet­ter yet, wait for him to ac­tu­ally start us­ing the ac­counts and only pay­ing up if it looked like he could do some dam­age with it.

Арсений Алексеев pointed out an ad­di­tional fail­ing if we took the psy­cho­log­i­cal view, that the ex­tor­tion­ist pro­vided a clear dead­line and so there was less in­cen­tive to pay to re­duce un­cer­tainty (dis­like of un­cer­tainty seems re­lated to ):

You would be tempted to pay early if the end­ing date was un­known. I am sur­prised he made that pub­lic.

Fi­nal­ly, Joshua Zelin­sky spec­u­lated on broader im­pli­ca­tions of the ex­tor­tion­ist’s fail­ure:

This sug­gests that peo­ple only take se­ri­ously when it is­n’t made ex­plic­it. If one thinks that makes more sense though then this ran­som does­n’t re­ally work.

Outcome

I made 2 pre­dic­tions about how my anony­mous ex­tor­tion­ist would re­act to my pub­lic de­c­la­ra­tion:

  1. He will re­ply: 65%

    If he spent the time reg­is­ter­ing the user­name and con­tact­ing me, after such a re­buke, I ex­pected a re­ply if only to jus­tify his pe­cu­liar pay­ment sched­ule. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, I was wrong and as of 2013-12-15, I have not heard a peep from him, and fur­ther, the Bit­coin ad­dress 1LtiftPcu3AjTbXf2XFCbvNTaeRFL1yBAy has been in­ac­tive since.

  2. He will not at­tempt a sec­ond ex­tor­tion: 65%

    As I said at the time, “if it did­n’t work the first time, why would it work else­where?” In­deed. I’d said no and given a gen­eral ex­pla­na­tion of why I could not pay for the en­tire class of ex­tor­tion at­tempts.

I paid noth­ing and suffered no harm, so I re­gard this mostly as an amus­ing ex­am­ple of the use of Bit­coin for ex­tor­tion.

2013

DPR?

7 November

At 5:13PM I re­ceived a cu­ri­ous PM on Red­dit:

Sorry for all the trou­ble I caused. I know I fuck up alot. This privnote con­tains every­thing to cover your ass, its how I con­nected you to you. https://privnote.com/n/mhstglglfojgxgqb/#opzcvoxulwcwlskl Sorry for fuck­ing up what you had. I was just des­per­ate and was try­ing to cling to any­thing I could. You won’t let me vend prop­er, you won’t leave me alone and just let me do my thing. I felt like I had noth­ing else to turn to, and if you were go­ing to sink my ship, I would to yours. My dog died to­day be­cause we could­n’t afford her med­ica­tion. Such is life. Here is the pgp if you don’t want to click that link. It for­mat­ted proper in pgp. —–BEGIN PGP MESSAGE—– Ver­sion: GnuPG v2.0.22 (Ming­W32) hQIMA8J30uIoggNFAQ/9GJDAeJ3P+C7oqcV6deaYXpIStWzSPgF5jhcLgrCHZ7c9 gf16Qi7F1p/HFN7WgarpxBboET9w3/7BXy9+wRueODJV/qffg781kl8pyOtlcHXX d7JpYOZVi8o/faimlsapSP5kMbmhTqPJFsCQ+H7IfI2NRkLXWi9yezq5jNRu9VRb Jda5BvKq37G1F+d5bxKOpJMNxDn2gL3Gz+IbaShHnO9+UtoPR1BbNZqjV/H+TLKm 5J7zWHYU0kwe6fGhY9SobD3QSAXIDNnd6ONYC4tmHOcjMK4SfKVm01uECq6bxGLH l8e5my9CQEME/zr7AapDX9y77AwXuoiah5ZfjFwvyaz/V2C1sOcov2Ws/Z/BT4mL sxwEehEfL0+D1MeoKRJBz73JCxPsRqLUfOK9kax828uEbo7gDPJZdTXPx9z4cfZG 83mSdEQt4gKve8PUTqs6RndJIxZ6Ua1uLW4kS7TZuKXT69QnOTYM1zv3Fh4xz95l R36zbbUUN8ZcolphOr6t2kTAYJlsV17Qiw3+9dTtI5XFSq/Us6FqMcz9Tvh23n7c RVfn49+SH9WjaFz7KvpYw3l68ZdhzPNFIvHLbE1q4LZfut2b9SC3zOHc/nqdKg+H nt0vNljKfuw5Kdb3Jh5e7Gpx2iTfxfQz5dZ5aZ4ITlv7YDNvRVKcg0apVQFqrW7S wSIB13pbIgzlnblI2j/OurmagWJB84fGjGTnBs8Zj7qTG5dRdXRrXZOi2vViNs/u 5F6I6Er34qzCuU2a1VxehrZI5AZ9ivtbQvs6//HbnjVo2kXv9vStepMFlCd4fbCY J/ZJ0Fsk49jjEoODmqVBifPwDGREmYnbtL/uewrOLOrl0nmO9JUii0V8ZL9qBKZM 3Jh2Q8y84O059M+m0oIptBmF8IFfpH+4NtD6Sg6oaVNOja+/rw8+heih3CIo0NGq xLia3qaK/DPBa5wT7skuLfFf6VTZopOvNDir1RPXpHWpJAPk80lQorqKP3Y5KOTo sdzsWzOmvbLvfeaIRccqbds7KGAiZq+WMj7FiTpv309q7AaK16vgC7ndot+pAHyU AZqCZ2W/JCIO+CeF7WYpKfFEXVM/vd4Z08ov2EC30BtLc/nRGGe3L/ZWfs3krA4v CpLad/RoN42KEds0Y0JO7ZHkLf3qb7b3LLFQXGFkjGkY39HpH1AVfG+jQz3geHIx RHaiRNKy2B/Zh3aKxOmPHazxOiyUh8yAn8YtndM3RRVa9D2avaUoTrqqj/mYM31Q 6iYqxwchqxs8DOu2nwchH3aQmNVJjvmGP+zS9fE8dbehvarYj65Q9YUV3RKHJ6cw 5AUiCg== =5yAt —–END PGP MESSAGE—– Again, sorry about be­ing a piece of shit. Al­though i’m sure thats not enough. Don’t wor­ry. I won’t ever say your name again.

The Privnote link seemed to con­tain the same PGP-encrypted mes­sage, both en­crypted to “RSA key, ID 28820345” - not a key I had or whose ID I rec­og­nized. My ini­tial guess was that he thought he had linked my Gw­ern pseu­do­nym to a DNM op­er­a­tor (pre­sum­ably ei­ther an em­ployee of the re­cent­ly-de­ceased Silk Road or as an op­er­a­tor of the then-re­cent­ly-opened Silk Road 2. Other pos­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded Black­Mar­ket Re­loaded or Sheep Mar­ket­Place.) I can say this due to the bit about “You won’t let me vend proper”: since I am en­tirely un­in­volved in run­ning the DNMs and I gen­er­ally only doc­u­ment ven­dors after they’ve been bust­ed, it is im­prob­a­ble I as Gw­ern in­ter­fered with his sell­ing, and that then means he must think I’m some­one else.

I’m re­ally cu­ri­ous why he thinks I’m run­ning a DNM but the prob­lem is, I can’t de­crypt his mes­sage and if I tell him that, then it sounds like I’m re­ally am the per­son he thinks I se­cretly am and I’m bull­shit­ting him. I’m also cu­ri­ous what trou­ble he caused ‘me’ be­cause I’ve never heard of this nick be­fore. So here was the plan I de­cided on to deal with him: I tell him his mes­sage is mal­formed on both Red­dit & Privnote (which it is), tell him how to for­mat it for Red­dit (in­dent every line by 4 spaces), and tell him to use my ‘pub­lic’ iden­ti­ty’s key. Hope­fully he’ll take this as a le­git­i­mate tech­ni­cal glitch, re-en­crypt to a key I ac­tu­ally have, and then I’ll know what he’s talk­ing about. If he gets spooked by my ‘ap­par­ent’ in­abil­ity to de­crypt the mes­sage, then he was­n’t re­ally con­vinced I am ‘me’ in the first place and I don’t es­pe­cially care what his ar­gu­ments or facts were.

An hour lat­er, I replied:

I do not know what you are talk­ing about, and cer­tainly would not be able to de­crypt that mes­sage. You should use my pub­lic key https://www.gwern.net/Links#contact if you have some­thing to say to me.

Al­so, your mes­sage is mal­formed on both Red­dit & Privnote: you need to in­dent each line by 4 spaces and then it’ll work fine.

I re­ally liked the coy­ness of that first line: I think that’s per­fectly worded to sound like I know ex­actly what he’s talk­ing about but I’m in­sist­ing on the re-en­cryp­tion as a but­t-sav­ing ma­neu­ver.

8 November

I waited with great ea­ger­ness for the re­ply to learn how ex­actly ‘I’ was be­ing black­mailed or ex­torted or doxed, only to be told:

The en­tire text of the first mes­sage I sent you was copy/pasted.

I was sent that mes­sage by some­one who claims to know the iden­tity of DPR. I’m not too ad­vanced with PGP only re­cently learn­ing it, but I be­lieve it is for­mat­ted for DPR PGP key so nei­ther of us will be able to de­crypt it. He falsely be­lieved I was some­one else after I im­per­son­ated an in­di­vid­ual he asked to con­tact him. I was sim­ply trolling await­ing the launch of the new road.

I know the name of the per­son he is claim­ing to be DPR and he did show me some con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence but I ne­glected to save any of the pic­tures out of lack of be­lief. Now I’m be­gin­ning to think he may have been right be­cause of how quickly I was cen­sored when I tried to di­vulge this in­for­ma­tion.

I am hon­estly un­de­cided as to whether or not I want to poke at the is­sue, as I’m solely a sim­ple cus­tomer from the orig­i­nal SR and a sail­ing ship is good enough for me. But this in­for­ma­tion was posted on Red­dit more than once after the reg­is­tra­tion sus­pen­sion on the offi­cial fo­rums. That said, law en­force­ment has defi­nitely seen what was dis­sem­i­nated and if it’s true, it is in the best in­ter­est of every­one to un­cover it be­fore LE be­come in­volved once again.

I con­tacted you be­cause I’ve read good things about you on the fo­rums after re­search­ing who you were fol­low­ing your en­crypted info post last week. If you wish to dis­cuss any of this fur­ther, mes­sage me back and we’ll move to a more se­cure plat­form and I can share with you what I was told and you can fol­lowup in an at­tempt to de­ter­mine its ve­rac­i­ty. Thank you for your time.

I was ter­ri­bly dis­ap­point­ed: he had been bluffing me! He could­n’t de­crypt the mes­sage ei­ther and had no more idea than I did what was in it. And his the­ory was­n’t ter­ri­bly plau­si­ble: I did have DPR’s offi­cial pub­lic key, but it was the key ID 67B7­FA25, not key ID 28820345 (as I said, the mes­sage had­n’t matched any of the pub­lic or pri­vate keys I’ve col­lected over the years).

I replied point­ing out the key ID is­sue and link­ing him to my pub­lic key for fur­ther dis­cus­sion. He never replied.

jack0fnone

10 December

This sec­tion is an ex­am­ple of some­thing I hoped would be a use­ful lead, but which turned out to be a nui­sance. (Mes­sages be­low have been lightly copy­edited to re­move the most egre­gious mis­spellings, and where rel­e­vant, en­crypted mes­sages are de­crypted & sev­eral suc­ces­sive com­ments by a party are com­bined into a sin­gle block­quote; oth­er­wise, their orig­i­nal for­mat­ting is pre­served as much as pos­si­ble.)

On 2013-12-10, I vis­ited Red­dit to dis­cover in my in­box a pe­cu­liar mes­sage:

[“The mo­men­tum of mo­ments…” from jack­0fnone sent 57 min­utes ago]

Not your typ­i­cal dox. https://privnote.com/n/tgczkzspwnindyfw/#bhbmxmqrdedwkukh

15bD6fYs6p9D9wmniDtTBcQSyWXDYNDCwv

Catch your breath and de­cide if it’s bet­ter to avoid an email/response al­to­geth­er. I for one have come to be in­cred­i­bly fas­ci­nated by the con­vic­tion you’ve demon­strate thus far, and fully stand by your side. I do offend eas­i­ly, but I’m also quite for­get­ful when rec­og­nized by op­por­tu­ni­ty. It’s truly been fas­ci­nat­ing!

Ob­jec­tive­ly, jack­0fnone

Most pe­cu­liar. Not your typ­i­cal dox - prophetic words. jack0fnone was not a nick I rec­og­nized, a quick Google turned up noth­ing but a prob­a­ble false pos­i­tive in some kid’s gamertag, and I did not rec­og­nize the Bit­coin ad­dress 15bD6fYs6p9D9wmniDtTBcQSyWXDYNDCwv (which turned out to have no trans­ac­tion­s). This sounded like it could be any­thing - per­haps a dox of Black­Mar­ket Re­load­ed’s backopy? I knew my SMP in­for­mant had been look­ing into BMR, and while this prose did­n’t sound like him, I did­n’t have much to base that guess on.

Nat­u­ral­ly, I opened the Privnote.com link to read the full mes­sage:

How much time are we ever re­ally guar­an­teed? So many beau­ti­ful ideas to ex­plore and ex­ploit in this brief life­time. Would­n’t you agree?
To re­al­ize that it all could have been for some­thing more than ab­solutely noth­ing is the way by which we must pride our­selves to ex­change a di­a­logue some­day I as­sume.
I won­der if your sheer bril­liance will demon­strate it­self to be as re­silient this time around, great minds can cre­ate true rev­o­lu­tions when they work to­gether in se­cre­cy.
I come offer­ing you an econ­omy of grand scale, a life­time of se­cre­cy, friend­ship, and a fast paced blue­print to suc­cess­fully rid every­one of these tremen­dous frus­tra­tions.
With so much to lose, I am won­der­ing whether every­one is still on track for a con­tin­gency plan in Cyprus.

I too can change the world, some­times we must pre­tend to be­lieve it’s for the bet­ter for re­al­ity to catch up to truth–I’m sure you un­der­stand. I do not ap­proach you or your team with op­po­si­tion, only a mo­ti­va­tion which I see to be purer than yours. I don’t feel any­thing truly needs to be dis­cussed. I ne­go­ti­ate in the same way that all of you have, and with that sworn state­ment, I will take just this one wal­let off of your hands and present a plan more mo­ti­vat­ing and func­tional (1933phfhK3ZgFQNLGSDXvqCn32k2buXY8a) My med­dling in your teams cur­rent affairs is of lit­tle im­por­tance, but to val­i­date the idea of a scam coin and ex­pose it’s truths would not only leave iden­ti­ties and rep­u­ta­tions crip­pled, it would in­evitably de­stroy a foun­da­tion that can most cer­tainly be rec­on­ciled in these early stages. The al­ter­na­tive route will give you a chance to thor­oughly de­scribe this short lived con un­der your or­ga­nized list of “mis­takes”.

I most cer­tainly am the guy you are look­ing for, and if not I am for­ever in­clined to be the one you’re look­ing out for. I would strongly urge against vo­cal­iz­ing your con­cerns or find­ings any fur­ther in the var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties which you grace as a form of mit­i­gat­ing the fu­ture risks you as­sume to be im­pend­ing. My un­equiv­o­cal opin­ion is that we should con­tinue to change the cli­mate and at­ti­tude in a way that does­n’t hin­der the progress of this crypto (specifi­cally Bit­coin) move­ment in places where it is des­per­ately need­ed. I can­not stress the im­por­tance of time­li­ness as I am ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing the ex­pected de­nial phase that is to come! I, how­ev­er, am con­fi­dent that our ne­go­ti­a­tions have pleas­antly con­clud­ed; for bet­ter or worse, I would avoid fo­cus­ing on the ra­tio­nale at this point. It would serve you well to have me on your side these next few months, as I’ve de­cided it would be an ab­solute in­sult and tragic suc­ces­sion of events the fol­low­ing months to have this move for­ward in any other man­ner. Sim­i­larly I offer the op­tion of ceas­ing to ex­ist if you so choose to not dig­nify this part­ner­ship I would hope to de­vel­op.

signed,
1933phfhK3ZgFQNLGSDXvqCn32k2buXY8a >
15bD6fYs6p9D9wmniDtTBcQSyWXDYNDCwv

jack­0fnone@safe-mail.net

Well. That was omi­nous. I rec­og­nized the ad­dress 1933phfhK3ZgFQNLGSDXvqCn32k2buXY8a as be­ing the no­to­ri­ous lost trea­sure of Dread Pi­rate Roberts - the ₿111,114 (~$92,224,620) the FBI failed to con­fis­cate us­ing Ross Ul­bricht’s lap­top. Did Jack think I was the real DPR and Ross a patsy or mi­nor em­ploy­ee? Cer­tainly the men­tion of “team” sug­gested I had on­go­ing op­er­a­tions and that he might think I was the DPR2 run­ning SR2, but I did­n’t know what might be meant by “scam coin”. More dis­turb­ing was the sen­tence men­tion­ing my “or­ga­nized list of ‘mis­takes’”, which was a clear al­lu­sion to Mis­takes and ev­i­dence that this was a tar­geted mes­sage and not some in­dis­crim­i­nate broad­cast to, say, all Red­di­tors who com­mented on SR-re­lated ar­ti­cles. Re­gard­less, this is a clear black­mail at­tempt.

How to re­spond? I have no se­cret iden­ti­ties worth pay­ing to keep se­cret, I do not pos­sess ₿111,114 (heck, I don’t even pos­sess ₿111), and if I did, did he se­ri­ously think that I would pay up im­me­di­ately on get­ting such a cryp­tic threat? Now, I know he must be wrong in what­ever his ac­cu­sa­tion is, but that does­n’t mean his in­for­ma­tion is worth­less: he could have still stum­bled over valu­able in­for­ma­tion, even if his con­clu­sion is wrong. And the pur­ple prose was in­her­ently amus­ing (if a lit­tle dis­turb­ing in its own way - “What fright­ens us most in a mad­man is his sane con­ver­sa­tion”).

How to find out what he knows? I can’t sim­ply tell him, “you are wrong, but could you please tell me what in­for­ma­tion led you to your out­landish con­clu­sion?” I de­cided to em­ploy the same strat­egy the last time some­one ac­cused me of be­ing DPR: in­sist on set­ting up a new pub­lic key and talk via that. Nat­u­ral­ly, I did­n’t care about Red­dit eaves­drop­ping on our con­ver­sa­tion - what do they care about a mis­taken dox or ob­scure bit of DNM triv­ia? The point was sim­ply to give Jack an im­pres­sion of guilt: after all, what in­no­cent per­son would bother with such high se­cu­rity mea­sures? Surely only the real DPR would in­sist on such iron-clad se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions⸮

I replied briefly:

Red­dit and safe-mail are trans­par­ent sieves as far as we are con­cerned. Here is a pub­lic key:

-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.15 (GNU/Linux)
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==
=ah5R
-----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

Please re­ply with a fresh pub­lic key and your plan for a fix.

11 December

Jack seemed to take the bait, as he quickly replied

With great plea­sure.

And then some­time lat­er, sent a longer re­ply:

—–BEGIN PGP MESSAGE—– Ver­sion: GnuPG v2.0.22 (Ming­W32)

hQEMA4z9l03Eej0JAQgAtmUV4qSJI/9bn50luT1Y4QqAXRNBIik/NyNBB4WFy9zm tQ6snjE6Wt52IYlL7HWc+gw7hprEMTD2N1I9CvhIkXkYMRWrqwW84vzfGhL62FEU ZKVOlDGMosRUgFXTNyXO6HhHophyfkuH2dDwkOk2+8feMorPWUvvK/csNTTlFMos xxQ6k/WSNIOlSWCOTvWIXriWedtPLqg9pLMC01B35TJnGKfnIBkxBREqk1B3A5jd rkLJpC1l8DtZXnJN3txNvg2v27QafqBYOUVtvyb/4cgEmfPQW/kDCi5asjZc48CI Mrg4Nsa4VfGDr+iKvkmxcW3Bazpx45Fdzw/qW2JnW9LrAbfVeGEzxHHcuK7fC6t4 9rKqSiSZWwFggmsNKF21VJ0NAUdDFosW3Zxu+p56QMLpKqJnBbFF85yj532M08R9 cGhtctu7YZtQUlw65CgYr92CyV8y9TCqHR7YeUKTv61WMRwv4/M1+JZC8JR/M/Sc bKvIXNI5m+wzG2NaTkafdbzu0Ds2gmAZ93pesunf1XrPQoR6ATum9JNtmAzzVXx6 Zhp/3ZzF8Lo0opI7eTjkUP0/y817Mp2+e4jvswR30G+XrkTp7tdHwE7Iex3RjPF1 w8ckq4NNW7t7VjfNL7VfJgKW941ASRbZdYygiolmh8tqQ3wqLeI99zcYrmw+3dpI 0jMhq2fW+JJb7neEdw9gF6MgWNSDk/q8pS27ROeZyVJZgGfX/HJX9i6hBHinkIsc Fj+janaVWjkbfg3OWLpcg7jDpgzl4O/HRNiFVjhTYYI2k4x6gASCJK4dub45/Bxi yYuzi3l6i/VEkFOw5PlmBd61j0k+LjVD5WZL864jcFAUk/WaDxL3EsVY0c06FXDV H0WW7jL5NfBStydQauWOYRmCsxNKZIVgegFTByWU7jYj7vtsDZ1IdE+JufTYXu8Z tr6OhkEga8N/GACGaRg4fLzEz5soPVT5/CTSa6WJK174cZpR/DKseqQ32k/cFgZD 2kPxTDd3yhlkssDsb+NSnPYJyExxelYuUN2K6TECojrrbUoerfzOy506qUGwPMCa +DFhFuDIYM2wSWJA5+zr7FUFn7kdXys7qWjXFy16EcgT/4MvgFbiwzdIowQNgW+7 aQLntfH9h2cLBEzUYSuimac/MxJq3IMvHQjkrDqZbHkXl3TIBWi0AvRpG/gLvkxJ ZPIUHVua1uWXJykxVh/5mVef9IBtVVlmesKd5pEKqQt/tY8/6z7quKMgikBFzs+k hDlFSGOhtJxdIlXONNVn6tKlfQ2yzycghwsFKfKP0vKbAWW9fK5wquWPcvQM8g1y 58wdkidoo1yBuQ1Ri8HfJ1goBVKv0uyyzbPI8uvnVaykEcH2dGEdDV8BWvKFOPU4 Lc1WVX1msrc7/0R1QxOFi4PBTHHfFUknGjbABUuGenWHeQEclJVR8wQdQ1rhWA3F YfUQ9Pv6nqYlLH18gqK/hLkN9bcTWalIVhFLdcJydLB46XjQSxga6dbmqyfWFUYl Fc1f7CoJlyQ7cj0+uiSSLHYdb2YBwYXOnQGsnTFd5Ynx+wHcBzysnGUp0X+KJNSV 8Mkozo73Y23EB9AYEXOgiidRoAANJZnY7kxM/pTEhJDIXMzqFDk9yqsZIdJsN86s 7B8XHKh9uLBd2VZGoGXLZh36LttEpmCdoGMhUuunvPbTnogv5HkF2S7aJp7Kqk4P Aip+6FoEl3JIFiTjZy68/Xqt2YgcIJs0mn89ZjQkXGWAor3u2Q8CuKaZKryEmPc3 43w1dziujnfZR/WNTZMMDAvscjWnCGudiyaG9oxSKR0bHSORannp9gD/W6et9GEL VFnoS1rHkEsnR8WDJOFGmvt5kADEEQnZfNQJRdMQpm93b2i9i8mkbHcoHMLJzpGM aQ3AbjWutu6cQJYoGgiZy2HHfOuCf8ZmEzXLI2rZ5MghABI7U7mWXarvI4NayUQE 2bBMDxCthaQSPA5YwM42Fow7RteZ+x1vC4xo/yBBm90hn83bwWF24QcA7bGJzUI4 2io8C6fiyPfEqYoItqM1f4TZVkd1r+DLwSDMYXJY0hfYEmIqU6xulK3l44Yw6Id3 rs+9AxQ/oPGdFen955mKVjXH3CSxH8/qXJKrauuDKFYjdZ0sM/+1So38FypX++lO +8d6qFvdOLnhjjP5bBEztTOo7nXhzCWRYXBzzU7oTccY74GUi+601BGVqtJ9E2+4 h++H9E0v/3lePn/jUEF8LUc4N7HB2BUxSWcKoqPIDw532NPEf9QYf/GmRJkT66F7 6lDoIUG6TNCfXAGu2oRGoJwe+7Tm9D/kdMSbpXQRkwMEGX/qh5QxSJB1cvJkbe2w dhNP3G1fTyO2LL0nxmN+RR5G/Lb82NOBsQXdkLqjAQMm4oNHhQsNNjFqzP2w0UJk 9OwQ3wR9lZlpisPegtn5lIxDBT5OZ84ZMwqjqV5sZgGequvJVdEp2ewMy91WVrY5 xdAWmGvxuS6hAf+tQ1Jmkg1JRdoWgYD1ug+lNnwIHZCtWcAohlFgTpYbUsVUK+Bv 5c/AbMMtm+JJ/rltjp8d/90aRMTEn68m4EeLaVIHYPrfLU0CZNYcwh3lczC+fbAV o5J6shY59Mf1WM5+w23vFt1ISSahzBtJHcX7FVp5zzuFCciB6ie3JPV5a2TAoyxn hgCrikgijeqlzub951f7XztCN9jYE/FeAp72xglAB97791M+O+xXWFZcbteBIip6 k2SyuA+2s5jVwBlzsOEBvH4Pgj75ogGxcyslolSN7I1m/PONRRzY4oCFs5KG/q0Y DssR9UcFeXwAgHdnIQe/6lcnzF+xscd59b/T0D6x+cEJ2sf3e1hmcySBlhBkFskN Fg3f2Q+Dji2QjTZO2XJshVgfHSxAXUYcIi3qex0ovJ6R97x/FgArFeLynhYIs6L5 Oz539JAk/zZltdFJG+F8yJWM2GyQiHv4/AQ/yDFvuzqHhG6UhFKs7ex56HQ94pAr L1mutMi2GT/UcBo1rydDMsn2V0cGciw8POT9gVu7nd4nPBINNFbVUYSnJORDkivl LninRm8cjBmLEU33Cyv5NUHArdv3LIXwgiVgvhk1vKeYeMmK+xHm+UwWMddem9dh 8UuK47bdU7YB3AVG8trscPadzCDkFHM9RVRsYJqPN1FE/NaYCPxpwkfLcNricvR2 M7OEt74cJjSsx7ZtOP5+x/IVL9O6CRHB+t3UeGUZcQq4nZff2IQDBB6U9sAFiO/o FqW8qzS8FrPF9lA1mjPcZ7+H/av/DsIa7ei5G/hea0S/3Okij1ZS2aIxMkSgmdlf KybWiph0pPDiBYsYgeR1Tk6pcS27r0d5y4EjAumCy1iKCoo2XtdyWYEUtqefa6oA 5mkKrOcs3ackZdsSwZafuARht8ZsST/9ojobLzCtBXTgXNi+Cg8aTThcK+wifN4C 0p5sN7lPg52gBksf9BTOqq7UtP5Nhn1ju7NWsnuRzxaprGzlWpvWM5duULOD+QHk 0y4z3hECY1RdDMSqSFx/s3E5fCbiSLjP6kZLzQWSkM96Uy06wOZjG1PClK0GsU2n =42HQ —–END PGP MESSAGE—–

I will add that all to­tals will con­tinue to be cal­cu­lated in BTC on that days av­er­age if you fail to com­ply with any guide­lines. Look for­ward to some­thing more pleas­ant in dis­cus­sion as soon as pos­si­ble, best.

The post­script con­firmed my be­lief he was black­mail­ing me, but I could­n’t fig­ure out more. He had made the usual er­ror of not for­mat­ting the PGP-encrypted mes­sage as a code block, so it got wrapped. Even after fix­ing that, the mes­sage was in­valid:

$ xclip -o | gpg --decrypt
gpg: encrypted with 2048-bit RSA key, ID C47A3D09, created 2013-12-11
      "jack0fnone <jack0fnone@safe-mail.net>"
gpg: decryption failed: secret key not available

It was en­crypted to his pub­lic key? I de­cided to play se­cu­rity hard-ass, to fur­ther the im­pres­sion of guilt (surely an in­no­cent per­son would sug­gest sim­ply mes­sag­ing like nor­mal peo­ple and not be so para­noid):

Please use that key. I don’t mean to be rude, but if you can­not com­part­men­tal­ize and fol­low ba­sic opsec, there is noth­ing that can be safely said.

I was a lit­tle amused at my role­play­ing here: “safely said”? Any­thing we had to say to each other could be safely said in the clear - I am not DPR, so what do I care? I had to project an im­age of be­ing tech­ni­cal and high­-s­ta­tus, since from read­ing many post by DPR and Satoshi, I knew they al­ways spoke con­fi­dently and calm­ly. Re­gard­less of my rea­son­ing, this seemed to have the in­tended effect of low­er­ing his sta­tus and he apol­o­gized for his er­ror:

I apol­o­gize. I’ll ad­mit my com­pe­tency is far from flaw­less. I sel­dom com­mu­ni­cate in PGP. What was the ex­act is­sue, please? I will have a re­sponse ready for you by morn­ing (y­our time).

His next re­sponse was to pro­vide his (mal­formed) pub­lic key:

—–BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—– Ver­sion: GnuPG v2.0.22 (Ming­W32)

mQENBFKolUIBCAC/6/TImZT60vCwGyXh+lWuWttrz1xeDnDyzTm3J2dXlsY6yy0f 58UmtmIHR99abm++jDPr1TcszC5u+Y/c+XICHzPDpkhqKfXmr4NhCkCDjZtmYNI9 4YLbwytaNWvMTbEupyT9SbiPTd//V3W4yuOvYhZKOQfEzcmT1hIcn65c5v93HD4R A7T6rmLoLjKQjccBBXOiRfw62CvU80CVlNiHkGeQYM/1Ym6DTPJkEdyQ4WU5g6d7 P9lCrvGvCQKpU+gVrjjdY4QVLMhdSTmGbogtMwFiEkDPmFB67g67m5nz+DQ+kzzE aTVmZj4OOWS6kUWivYR+0rqaZbDyrF7a7MP7ABEBAAG0JWphY2swZm5vbmUgPGph Y2swZm5vbmVAc2FmZS1tYWlsLm5ldD6JATkEEwECACMFAlKolUICGwMHCwkIBwMC AQYVCAIJCgsEFgIDAQIeAQIXgAAKCRC7IqugAkQU5et8B/43L6XCmbBw+8Fl7xk2 elXk2Q5h6FRVLnGKiPzbq5OBtKSaQlThDku6W6Pg2yWbeMGUWw4ZW8EaU/c0Mn68 oPILgYiydpbJOdn8L5Kju1GiGJl1RD1PCJpl+2iQXoRCptcazubSgDd4NcECr5QP DnGvAasRlHWrMITmWpy9zuIBWiuMzkzgJIRTp8cK+5JPCp36nWF4g41XIgzyLhR3 Z4Zt+YCndCnrYGRRsfMgGMSXGorIxPtJW/Ik5xTNNYOF1550QWgY8I0kVa5R87DT 7Jtl9UcPPWiTTQud6l4YlCfChkPoKwYY6TEXW7vdvfsjOufbQSsPTnC40L2YA8oH Um0TuQENBFKolUIBCADDacxyZw8UzK7inJXIih33rNC9zPLyPemMhJQljjk8esZJ +Tj6zLKxD4BbwEZKxKApXZcqNHbDNbfA05mZzAnMvppLbptSVgKSADyTmvFu6wUC xLhT9DRTp7p4/MtUDupEyq3IvkbLY/AfuBSJfVxzBBpnO+jipLQSHVl09U4ov8R5 IJq6NaNlT6/33pA1frC6JfJumZSCLHDDX2AIuH9T6P8uQmIBy+Wne97A1zvEb4j0 ktKyjhaQ8oJFlkQhlJgEfS1XtQcfpGZo2wyWc63c4q8G4Sbu1S64Gl2EXKStPw14 7MQg0nDqbjDjTEXtJmurwIs4gRBvjDqPT2WlMp7VABEBAAGJAR8EGAECAAkFAlKo lUICGwwACgkQuyKroAJEFOU/Gwf/bYPZILFgpaxXsfX0944ZYHWQZN+x1s2/Sf8A DiG/6C4nkWyPVGRE/ee5RTaOE2DPCSyPmGxpk92+IGZ6aLNsxFcVanaqkrKgP3cZ V2MhJH5wV9rF3SFjQiaUktNitLh5OmwFfBRU6rmKP56i4nh+nz6az6tp2pFyhVtg TInfyAiXfL8klTIh/NkCdDy8pXlRS6SVTOLbECcB8cKtlfiGGccauE46dYhE502Q /vlJWWUjtVHm2AQ2DMQm2o/E3xuO+KmdMOqMAR5IkwZP0YevnXq44tNKrHbEJgL8 HB8yyBO+BblRBXSywPP9VYmKZjS3NFTzu+B0uRi4lwrp/OxQ3g== =kOch —–END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–

re­solved?

No, not re­al­ly… but I fixed it any­way to im­port key 024414E5: "jack0fnone <jack0fnone@safe-mail.net>", and gave him an en­crypted mes­sage ex­plain­ing the is­sues since he was­n’t fig­ur­ing them out for him­self:

First, to use PGP on Red­dit, it’s best if you in­dent each line by 4 spaces to pre­serve the new­lines.

Sec­ond, the is­sue is sim­ply that reusing a sin­gle pub­lic key for every­thing is not safe. Pub­lic keys pro­vide se­cu­rity and ir­rev­o­ca­bil­i­ty: these are very use­ful in some con­texts, but in oth­ers, you want off-the-record prop­er­ties and per­fect for­ward se­cre­cy. Ca­su­ally us­ing a sin­gle key for all com­mu­ni­ca­tions means that third-par­ties - such as law en­force­ment - can prove you signed all the com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and sim­i­larly for re­ceiv­ing mes­sages en­crypted to your pub­lic key. It’s like link­ing ad­dresses on the blockchain: once you have done it, any­one with a copy can prove there’s a con­nec­tion. Even if they can­not break the mes­sages, that still offers traffic analy­sis and meta­da­ta. One way to mit­i­gate this is to use mul­ti­ple pub­lic keys / iden­ti­ties, ide­ally one key per cor­re­spon­dent: that way, if any­one gets a copy of one key, they only de­crypt that par­tic­u­lar sub­set of mes­sages.

This was all per­fectly true and the rea­sons why some­one like DPR would act as I was act­ing. They just had noth­ing to do with why I was in­sist­ing on PGP. In­struct­ing peo­ple on PGP use can be te­dious, but be­ing pa­tient with sources has paid off for me in the past, so one grins and bears it.

He replied with an­other mal­formed PGP-encrypted mes­sage… en­crypted to his own pub­lic key again:

—–BEGIN PGP MESSAGE—– Ver­sion: GnuPG v2.0.22 (Ming­W32)

hQEMA4z9l03Eej0JAQgAwLpN8/6fwa403zDRudFXJijnz+j+9Y4TjbmNr8nwzn2X 1cLvYq9h+/QW2RF5yjMAFGZEtwi6GfasYzHlcZ7hN2hGa2m3gsNyxrAXzpOQwuXW UDqxrP5hTUXBlw3NWM71z5H8TrO7vdSWjyVjGdztL/fTsADbvsBEiC5CWGdnYbaK pvepFob4IYV/PGoWCVN4otORlcT7M+tkpMdx44pivV7Ivmu3nkYHf+kflP79lyH0 vA/awyKK+KeF02HhAFRXn8YjJb4sDwluuRSPG4lFYpUmUxVWfYmymPcVyX1fRFma w4nosA9GWsOkgijyrwov6R94MdViZ560DmzOzsF5b9LBPwHYt4OburhyR7F/1MbW BwY/lfQaFw7tu88yf9i43INXyTs17cX430EfacDnkn4KxGjHxNS8ngXVaoQz3h1j IGOt1j3r37tDgzQkBe6zOSsj53o95C/JUlQpS6ypmPMOOtRV6d5gtPC5Ufo8FtIb xIT4ma3rBWiOfjxu1WK3/baz8Tf8NWXM++Qf7iUHZLVpxZv7k9maddldw/ovFzzi H+rgnNIC+3L3V+nAxB746ihISymTjZgjvkPnQ6p60SPO3PHumCUEvI5eM+beMgX5 icSEnBghvlRN7CgMwSv77gSEe541v38KaPyeyDMVHJT16nODiDAFjHIqF+IskeOG HfOzMsyNGZEZhDCksdKJV3+ceWnknusaWu69+o+vgPxlJSBMd8uJjaRS9vbJJPjk VPeV5Zur­J1cjF6I­iD2k+pZd­FvDg3R­bEO+Z6tlD­tUYe0qK3k­wAoWAatH­F4uyqgXwC vfnByz314yeVV29c65fvCf0mQE3WoMa2IQ+v0+NjvSb8U0ahmIIggQxHYk/XqM0Y +dr++nRQuQfvFMOIqTmcNigonCcx/0nQsuSXq0tieUP2E1j6cR/LLjxjdEmfTplz 1RD/wtTV8L+bSHzz6yu/6kU05x04auHLPgOXp1JQ/CQz0x7V5NgIknJKGWpUqi9w o699ms6ZBFe/3Hq27rVO9Ws= =OUp/ —–END PGP MESSAGE—–

Let me know if this is what you meant.

Help­ful­ly, he fol­lowed up with a warn­ing:

So we are clear, I would sug­gest you fo­cus on my ini­tial re­sponse rather than avoid ad­dress­ing the com­men­tary. The re­quests are as men­tioned, very pre­cise and with­out le­niency due to the time sen­si­tive na­ture of this mat­ter. I will leave this re­minder de­crypt­ed, your time is highly re­garded in all of this. Per­haps we’ll have the plea­sure of ex­chang­ing for­mal­i­ties at some more con­ve­nient point.

I might do that if you had­n’t screwed up the en­cryp­tion, Jack! By this point I was get­ting a lit­tle frus­trated - if he can’t use PGP, how likely is he to know any­thing worth know­ing? - but I per­se­vered, and ex­plained in the clear to him:

No, I’m afraid that’s still not quite right. First, it’s eas­ier if you for­mat mes­sages right by in­dent­ing each line by 4 spaces. As it is, one has to care­fully fix the mes­sage by hand.

Sec­ond, your mes­sage start­ing with hQEMA4 is still be­ing en­crypted to the wrong key. When I look at it, I see:

$ xclip -o | gpg --decrypt
gpg: encrypted with 2048-bit RSA key, ID C47A3D09, created 2013-12-11

While in gpg --list-keys, the spe­cial-pur­pose key ap­pears as

pub   2048R/1A725E92 2013-12-11 [expires: 2015-12-11]
uid                  No Fixed Point <temporary@universe>

C47A3D09!=1A725E92 - it’s en­crypted to the wrong key.

What you need to be do­ing is some­thing along the lines of

$ cat message.txt | gpg --encrypt --armor --recipient 1A725E92

Spec­i­fy­ing that 1A7/temporary is the tar­get pub­lic key.

His next re­ply, thank­ful­ly, was prop­erly for­mat­ted, and so I could im­port an­other pub­lic key (key 24E2A726: public key "russiatoday <russia@today>") with­out is­sue, and this time de­crypt his mes­sage, at least yield­ing his blunt state­ment of what he was after:

I ap­pre­ci­ate the time­li­ness of your re­sponse.

First and fore­most com­pen­sa­tion, of course.
Sec­ond­ly, I will pro­vide a clear syn­op­sis of the time­line that will un­fold for your max­i­mum 7 day emer­gency ex­ten­sion.

In­voice: Satoshi Nakamoto

Pay­ment Due Date: 12/11//13

Pay­ment Ad­dress: 19f7evHC6Et3VK9F5KGjJ2tYECo3seLFkU

Pay­ment Amount TOTAL: 1933phfhK3ZgFQNLGSDXvqCn32k2buXY8a

My thought? An ab­solute steal tonight, con­sid­er­ing all in re­serves.

Penal­ties for fail­ure to make pay­ment by De­cem­ber 11th will cor­re­late to an ac­ti­va­tion of cri­sis-ex­ten­sion that will carry in­ter­est as pre­sent­ed:

+Day 1-3 $250,000,324 per day

+Day 4-6 $500,324,324 per day

+Day 7 $1,324,324,324.324 due date

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After we have man­aged to set­tle our ne­go­ti­a­tions I’ll be glad to dis­cuss every­thing in more de­tail; specifi­cally this projects for­mal­i­ties as should be ex­pected (great con­cept to in­cor­po­rate le­git­i­mate tan­gi­bil­ity and a broader struc­tural foun­da­tion).
Let’s not ig­nore the enor­mous mea­sures that have been taken for the greater good and to se­cure a more sta­ble fu­ture. How­ev­er, the fan­tas­tic time­line I’ve archived and the count­less sto­ries and fal­si­fi­ca­tions that at this point are
in­dis­putably ac­cu­rate can be fed in the most artis­tic man­ner yet to the ed­i­tors of the NYTimes, Huff­Po, Bloomberg, etc. in a timely fash­ion (we share a pas­sion for ex­pres­sion, among other things I’ve no­ticed). Not to get too en­tan­gled in my
ideas at the mo­ment but I will say that I carry for­ward a very op­ti­mistic out­look from your last re­sponse Gw­ern; re­sis­tance is a stu­pid thing! I will con­firm that even my in­ter­est charges are in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous con­sid­er­ing the mag­ni­tude of
ev­i­dence cou­pled with the scope of…well you al­ready know. I don’t care to be con­de­scend­ing, dis­cred­it­ing, or even slightly threat­en­ing from this point for­ward if it has­n’t al­ready come to your sens­es. I do how­ever have a plan I will
en­act with or with­out you, my se­cu­rity is ob­vi­ous and your in­ge­nu­ity is some­thing I will in no man­ner over­look so long as you con­tinue to stand on the op­po­site side of this well guarded fence. This ecosys­tem can be fine tuned with
more than one out­look. Your lack of dis­ci­pline and dis­en­gaged con­scien­sce is telling at this point in time. I di­gress, and pre­fer to close on this last note. If the surety in my case is­n’t pre­sented well enough I will gladly show his majesty the day­light
(once again). How­ever I imag­ine you’re in­ter­ested in cor­rect­ing this is­sue im­me­di­ate­ly. These are in fact, ab­solute terms. Should this in­for­ma­tion fail to make it­self clear I think you’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to do more than just ex­plain­ing your­self.

The right­ful end­ing here reads:
Gw­ern on brink of sec­ond…chance?
Cheers to some­thing more and noth­ing less.

*This con­cludes the time­line of events that will fol­low. I’d also like to thank you for not mak­ing the fla­grant de­ci­sion of dis­avow­ing in ad­vanced I for one never in­tend to blem­ish your rep­u­ta­tion nor drag my own into this ut­ter mess.
For that, there is a de­gree of re­spect that I de­mand to up­hold amongst us and even more im­por­tantlly a level of con­fi­dence that guar­an­tees your con­cerns will be con­sid­ered (pro­vided there is a so­lu­tion at­tached).
How­ever you would like to com­pu­tate the ve­rac­ity of this mes­sage is your choice, pro­ceed with cau­tion if the math does­n’t add up in your fa­vor. This I would say will be a very unique and mem­o­rable time in both our lives.
I urge you to pause your other pend­ing tasks, and take the time to med­i­tate be­fore you con­sider strik­ing the worst per­son pos­si­ble or act­ing ir­ra­tionally out of fear. This is all just a pass­ing breeze in the grand scheme of things–that we both un­der­stand.

For the sake of start­ing anew. I’ve just re­stated my claims un­der a new key, I hope to hear back with some­thing of equal val­ue.

Also thank you for that ex­pla­na­tion I’ve only just started run­ning Kali as of re­cent­ly.

Wow. I was wrong: Jack did­n’t think I was DPR, or SR staff. He thought I was Satoshi Nakamoto. Wow. Leav­ing aside the ba­sic is­sues with the the­ory (like how I don’t know C++, have lit­tle fa­mil­iar­ity with cryp­tocur­ren­cies prior to Bit­coin, cer­tainly would­n’t be liv­ing my cur­rent lifestyle if I had Nakamo­to’s es­ti­mated ₿800,000, could barely pro­gram Java when Nakamoto was start­ing to work on Bit­coin in 2006 etc), this im­me­di­ately raised red flags as be­ing mega­lo­ma­ni­ac, grandiose, and pro­vid­ing pre­cisely zero hard ev­i­dence about any­thing. I have done a lit­tle re­search on Nakamoto my­self, and there is noth­ing Jack could have found in Nakamo­to’s back­ground which would tie him to me, and that meant it was highly un­likely I could learn any­thing of value from Jack and I had wasted my time.

On the other hand… how deep did this rab­bit hole go? If he thought I was Nakamo­to, what on earth led him to him to such a pro­foundly er­ro­neous con­clu­sion? I ad­mit to a cer­tain in­ter­est in dis­eased think­ing (one of my is and I en­joy read­ing psy­chol­ogy books like Oliver Sack­s’s), and Jack might have a rare gem of con­spir­acy the­o­riz­ing if I could but ex­tract it from him. And his pur­ple prose is hi­lar­i­ous (what, does he think he’s Mo­ri­arty or some­thing?) So, a chal­lenge: could I pro­voke him into re­veal­ing his hand?

Hello again. Hope­fully this key works this time. Since you’ve been so kind as to put up with my cryp­to-nit­pick­ing and given the time­line you’ve set, I will be blunt: I think you are bluffing me.

I think that you do not have a solid case that I am Satoshi, and that you are hop­ing I will pay you a large sum which will prove I am Satoshi ei­ther by its enor­mous size or by re­quir­ing coins from mul­ti­ple blocks mined in 2009, at which point you will both be ex­ceed­ingly wealthy and also able to prove you found Satoshi.

So I do not plan to pay you 1933phfhK3ZgFQNLGSDXvqCn32k2buXY8a with­out more ev­i­dence, and re­al­ly, you should have sup­plied more as you are ask­ing a sum which even a bil­lion­aire can­not pay with­out paus­ing to think care­fully for a while. If you want this to move for­ward, you will need to be more forth­com­ing.

This pro­voked an as­ton­ish­ing tor­rent from Jack

At this point it’s very straight­for­ward, I speak as an hon­est man when I say what you have con­spired to ac­com­plish thus
far is some­thing in­cred­i­bly bril­liant. For bet­ter or worse I think your sit­u­a­tion has evolved into some­thing to­tally un­fit­ting
I speak as some­one ap­proach­ing this dis­cus­sion with enough ev­i­dence to ex­tra­dite you and leave your par­lia­ment blush­ing.
Can I be frank in ask­ing how you could pos­si­bly dig­nify a re­sponse with­out hav­ing enough time to con­sider the delu­sions
of grandeur that have brought you to one knee at this point? A sec­ond grader can av­er­age this cur­rent stat–what­ever you
may want to ti­tle it. I’m truly un­phased. I’m in agree­ment with the fact that BMR should be down be­fore next year, make it
hap­pen. Sim­i­lar­ly, pan­do­ra, SR 2.0. Deep­DotWeb, They­mos, Jezuzwaza­mush­room, They­mos, Volan­icErup­tor,, Mar­tian­Man,
BTCOlympus, BTCMiners,TATInvestments, ASICMINERS, PEERCOIN, Crypt­sy, ZETACOIN, Kswing­mang, Fontas, func­tionover­func­tion,
god­freeee, Quark­Coin, INFINTIYCOIN, PRIMECOIN, BTC-E, LOCALBTC, BLOCKCHAIN.INFO, Satoshi-DICE. You’ve cen­tral­ized
the one thing that we all swear to be de­cen­tral­ized in the most ge­nius way in my opin­ion, and your at a good pace.
You have this tenac­ity to keep the story go­ing, but un­for­tu­nately for you this is where my luck, re­lent­less graphical/textual
analy­sis, prepa­ra­tion, life-end­ing dirty scams and some mo­ti­va­tion from my lovely girl­friends all tied up the case-load I have on hand.

With grace, I stop dig­ni­fy­ing you from this point for­ward. I need not an­other un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion of this sort in my life since you
don’t know, so pur­sue this as you will, but I have a clear ad­van­tage. I have the man that can tell the grand­est story of them all. Un­for­tu­nate­ly,
it’s one you won’t hear un­til you choose to ac­cept that my in­ten­tion fails in your eyes be­cause it is purer than yours and un­re­vealed. I have Ross
and Tomas as huge news thanks to you, you are the prob­lem and the so­lu­tion, you leave no stone un­turned but a ter­ri­ble trail of sta­tis­tics and un­equiv­o­cal
im­pres­sion un­der any name you so choose to adopt. It’s not quite the tri­umph you would re­ally cal­cu­late it to be to some­one see­ing the
en­vi­ron­ment right this mo­ment. But as I have said, your story stops when your news stops, and well, when every last char­ac­ter dies out of
this drama and much of the life you’ve clevely built falls silent. Late­ly, I’ve en­joyed tun­ing in to all your sto­ries dai­ly.

You’ve jeo­pordized your­self at this point for rea­sons you can fare to guess these next 7 days as long as you would like. Even a bil­lion­aire would have that
prob­lem you say? Let’s be straight-for­ward I could round you up and bring you down faster than that hard on Keiser was show­ing a month back and your clever
pump that now has me de­cid­ing if I pre­fer a half and half mix of LTC/BTC. I can­not even be­gin to imag­ine the hell I will bring with the con­nec­tions
I’ve man­aged to sus­tain over the course of this crazy life, but at this mo­ment and for the time that will come, my hand is reach­ing out in front di­rect­ing
it­self at you with the ut­most re­spect. I have worked years alone build­ing le­git­i­macy only to see this mediocre plan and dis­as­trous oc­curence re­sult­ing from
Danny and your crip­pled Zip-Zap pro­jec­t–or rather soon to be; that is if I’m so in­clined to dis­spell my knowl­edge to the likes of some very well po­si­tioned gov­ern­ment
offi­cials in my net­work. I know Ross would ap­pre­ci­ate some Jus­tice at this point, and I’m un­clear of whether this is all pass­able to you with­out any re­con­sid­er­a­tion in
strat­e­gy. Pa­thetic if you ask me. I would say that the count be­gins now, bc you’re go­ing nowhere with the tight grip I will main­tain on you from this point for­ward.
It serves you to con­sider that at this point, since I don’t give a shit that you’re Satoshi clear­ly, I just want to be 100% in agree­ment that my po­ten­tial Sys­tem Administrator/Advisor
will be com­pe­tent and com­mit­ted in dis­as­sem­bling most all of the cur­rent ideas that you have in your hand (and on table), and re­plac­ing their in­famy with the po­ten­tial of
re­build­ing third world economies to scale which was never pos­si­ble be­fore. This is in fact a new par­a­digm shift.

So we’re clear, my wealth that you speak of is the wealth that I will use to pro­pel this en­tire idea of yours for­ward with your men­tor­ing I would hope. I don’t care for your highly
ques­tion­able riches for the sake of burn­ing you at the stake so please don’t lose sleep there. If I had the in­ten­tion to put you out (not sim­ply for be­ing Satoshi), I would be­gin on
the 8th day as I have spec­i­fied. With a fully pre­pared se­ries of em­bar­rass­ing con­nec­tions and re­veal­ings that it would ruin you in a way I can’t see ben­e­fi­cial. You have
al­ways had a lot to offer the world Gw­ern, only a fool would think oth­erise. What good would you be sit­ting in Ross’s seat at this point? I’m not here for an
au­to­graph, just know that I will dis­cretely strike at op­por­tu­ni­ty, whether you choose to see the value in pre­sent­ing it to me is a risk that I would most cer­tainly
say will jeo­pordize every last hope you will ever have of re­count­ing a story with quite the glory and re­spect you’ve right­fully achieved to date now that the last day of your life be­gins.

My ev­i­dence? I’m here to round up a lit­tle less than half of your bil­lions in loot by day 7. Where does this leave you? This leaves you again as the du­ti­ful writer of this tale.
It would serve us well to co­op­er­ate on the ba­sis that your crypto fantati­cism and stored wealth ceases to mean any­thing as of this mo­ment. You are delu­sion­al, and well more
un­sta­ble than I thought you were if our last words end here, but I will as­sure you that we have only just cross paths, I hate al­ways end­ing on “for bet­ter or worse”.
I know this is­n’t a gam­ble you singed up for, but I’m un­phased by your doubts. There is a lot you’re miss­ing in this pic­ture, I urge you to not jeo­pordize every­thing for some­thing
that in all prac­ti­cal senses should hold no real value when you’re not fan­ta­siz­ing about some­thing like buy­ing a bit­coin is­land and are faced with the sud­den trem­ble of a hope
that guar­an­tees you no fu­ture or place any­where. This clos­ing is to the chance that we’ll soon meet on good terms, and that your hes­i­ta­tion is­n’t in whether my se­crecy is hon­or­able.

A stain on my rep­u­ta­tion is of no in­ter­est to me, I would ex­pect the same from you. We have a world of pos­si­bil­ity after to­day, I feel as if all the data I’ve com­piled puts me al­l-in at this point.
Not be­cause this is a game of proof, but be­cause this is still war and I un­der­stand ex­actly how this will all play out. Let’s re­mem­ber that there is no de­clar­ing bakruptcy here once your times up.
Maybe you need time to fab­ri­cate the story of this (rather small) move­ment, but con­sider the build up in in­ter­ests. Idk, but I sure hope I’ve made my­self clear as a crys­tal. Make sure you do your math
be­cause my count states that your oblig­a­tions should be reach­ing the 400,000 BTC mark soon, good luck and I hope you don’t ex­pect any fur­ther re­spons­es.

Re­main un­con­vinced? I hope these very mi­nor de­tails give you far more in­sight into just how much more I am hold­ing on­to. I am poised to be vi­ral my great Niger­ian Prince, why not mend a true friend­ship in­stead?

I’ll check back in on here in one week Gw­ern, I know you are a man of your word–as am I.

What am I even say­ing? At this point, I’ll be ea­gerly check­ing in to see just how you things will add up. Now I hope you don’t think you’ll sway me into any more non­sense you think I should val­i­date be­fore mov­ing for­ward with this. I need to get high and re­lax, this hunt has offi­cially ended with ABSOLUTE cer­tainty on my part, I know the right minds will fall into agree­ment with me.

I was flab­ber­gast­ed. I had­n’t even heard of half of the names he gave in the first para­graph, or the oth­ers (eg. ZipZap is ap­par­ently some­thing to do with , and I had to do some search­ing to learn even that). For­get the com­plete ab­sence of the ev­i­dence I asked for, this seemed like it was writ­ten by some­one in the throes of ful­l-blown psy­chosis or ma­nia or schiz­o­phre­nia with mean­ing­less plans to some­how rev­o­lu­tion­ize the world. (But to give Jack his due, some of his lines are hi­lar­i­ous: every­one should have a pet par­lia­ment which can be left blush­ing!) I do not have much ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with crazy peo­ple, so I gave the mat­ter some more thought be­fore I replied the next day.

12 December

I still had­n’t given up on get­ting the rea­sons he thought I was Satoshi (or any of the other names he men­tioned), so I de­cided to play along with the writ­ing style and de­mand ev­i­dence and point out his threat to go pub­lic in a few days while mock­ing him as ap­pro­pri­ate (s­ince po­lite­ness seems fu­tile):

As you say, I am the au­thor of my own tale, what­ever col­lab­o­ra­tors may in­vite them­selves in to scrib­ble on the parch­ment. I have read through your sug­gested emen­da­tions, and I have found it want­ing for adding to my tale a long chap­ter flash­ing back and ex­plain­ing how I in­vented Bit­coin years ago and re­con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing all events since: there is no sup­port­ing de­tail, no suc­cess­ful use of Chekhov’s guns or fore­shad­ow­ing or clues given pre­vi­ous­ly, the plot twist is im­plau­si­ble and trope-heavy, the writ­ing lugubri­ous and strained. I’m afraid I must re­ject your sub­mis­sion as re­quir­ing many more re­vi­sions and drafts, and I wish you the best of luck in find­ing an ed­i­tor who will help bring it up to snuff.

I do look for­ward to your analy­sis in 8 days, how­ev­er. While you are not up to pro lev­els of dox­ing and you may or may not have a gift for it (the proof is in the pud­ding), I am al­ways will­ing to read and give feed­back on a well-in­ten­tioned am­a­teur’s works. So, un­til then! I thank you for a most amus­ing evening.

I was dis­ap­pointed at his re­ply later that day:

“While you are not up to pro lev­els of dox­ing”

Gw­ern…you fail to re­al­ize that I am not merely try­ing to prove you’re Satoshi (that’s the bonus they prove). I stopped hav­ing to prove any­thing about two weeks ago when I found the en­tire an­swer in a se­ries of mis­takes not you but one that some­one else so stu­pidly com­mit­ted and all sits still for the en­tire world to ex­pand up­on. The bur­den of proof for­ever lies with you Gw­ern, the de­fense. You have fab­ri­cated sev­eral mur­ders. More of my con­cern hon­est­ly, is that Ross is rot­ting in a cell with every­one else obliv­i­ous to your mas­ter­mind role. I don’t care to reach out to the ed­i­tors any­time soon hence why I was clear about be­ing friends a cou­ple of months down the road. I am any­thing but an am­a­teur and this is not some made-up game. I have ap­proached you be­cause the proof is shak­ing, how long it will take to ex­tra­dite you is some­thing I bear no con­cern for. I will make how­ever make sure that be­fore you are locked away for the atroc­i­ties you have un­abashedly com­mit­ted to­day, I have the great plea­sure of see­ing you swal­low such a harsh and un­nec­es­sary re­al­i­ty.

For clar­i­fi­ca­tion this was sim­ply a re­verse dox that started well about a month ago but stretches back quite some time, all you’ve done is give this pend­ing fed­eral case build-up the strength in all the ar­eas which it lacked. You will be read­ing over “my analy­sis” moreso that of ex­perts if you ever find the time to breathe from the life you’ve ac­cepted as of to­day. How does the tale of the fool and his money end? I for­get.

I ap­pre­ci­ate your ego. Best of luck with the lit­tle fu­ture that’s left. Since we have both ex­pressed our con­cerns as well as the steps we will take I want it to be clear that I will not be turn­ing back from this point and this en­tire Ponzi Scheme along with these am­a­teur as­sump­tions of mine will re­main neatly com­piled in this “fog” of a case we’ve ac­knowl­edged does ex­ist.There is no cryp­to­graphic veil un­der a se­ries of semi­-u­ni­formed pseudo-anony­mous trans­ac­tions that will pro­tect you from any of this in­for­ma­tion when re­leased,or did you think I would be so fool­ish to show up with the as­sump­tion that I owe you any ex­pla­na­tion that might ac­tu­ally al­low you to take ap­pro­pri­ate coun­ter-mea­sures?

You have proven time and again how much you love risk and prob­a­bil­i­ty, and so this among other things will serve as a way to clearly prove to you that risk and prob­a­bil­ity some­times have no rea­son­able or pre­dic­tive out­come when the un­der­ly­ing as­set is as re­veal­ing (or un­re­veal­ing in mis­take) as I have cho­sen to be. I mean, I could­n’t help but laugh after read­ing your Death Note. I wanted to make this task in­ter­est­ing for my­self, this ex­per­i­ment is con­ducted on the­ba­sis that your abil­ity to cal­cu­late this out­come is and al­ways was go­ing to end in to­tal dis­as­ter.

You will learn in short time and with­out any chance of dis­miss­ing the point, that I am one of the most cal­cu­lated and or­ga­nized in­di­vid­u­als you will have ever in­sulted in your life. Specifi­cally that my in­tel­li­gence at hand, in fact, ex­ceeded yours by an or­der that is as ex­pected is unimag­in­able.

Some res­o­lu­tions con­tain within them­selves lit­tle to no ev­i­dence of a sat­is­fi­able an­swer. Es­pe­cially when the stakes are in­cred­i­bly good for me, and ter­ri­bly tragic for you. My next step is the FBI and a per­sonal visit to Ross’s at­tor­ney as we be­gin tear­ing through all of the com­piled ev­i­dence.

Re­mem­ber that cruise you wanted to take out of New York in a cou­ple of weeks after break? That fer­rari you wanted to buy? I urge you to treat your­self to these trea­sur­able mem­o­ries be­fore this all hits the ground at full speed. I re­al­ize that I still main­tain the gen­er­ous lead to bury this hatchet so by all means sit in fear, boast, or crit­i­cize me; I de­rive the great­est plea­sure from your ex­haus­tive tech­ni­cal­i­ties con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances.

Your delu­sions of grandeur are un­rea­son­able so un­til we have the ac­tual dis­plea­sure of cross­ing paths, Gw­ern Bran­wen, I wish for you a life full of hard learned lessons. My offer stands un­til the date spec­i­fied, good rid­dance Satoshi/Sunny, and may the most no­ble man ex­ploit the oth­er.

More threats, more lack of de­tails, more grandios­i­ty, and he’s ex­panded his claimed de­tails - who is Sun­ny? (Ap­par­ently a ref­er­ence to Sunny King, cre­ator of in­ter­est­ing alt­coins & , read­ers sug­gest.) What on earth is this “re­verse dox” he talks about? Why did he ref­er­ence my Death Note es­says (and which one, any­way, or ?)? I have no in­ter­est in a Fer­rari, and I do not live in New York at the mo­ment, and I sin­cerely doubt that Ross Ul­bricht’s lawyer Bran­don LeBlanc has re­ceived any visit from Jack. He is still writ­ing like a crazy per­son, to my dis­ap­point­ment. But there are some rhetor­i­cal gems of pur­ple prose in here that re­mind me why I led Jack on: I could never have writ­ten a line like “my in­tel­li­gence at hand, in fact, ex­ceeded yours by an or­der that is as ex­pected is unimag­in­able.”. An or­der as ex­pected as it is unimag­in­able! The mind reels.

I in­dulged my­self with fur­ther mock­ery (and some al­lu­sions since I was start­ing to feel a lit­tle like Beat­rice) in my re­ply:

Dear Au­thor: as your most ded­i­cated read­er, I pe­rused the lat­est in­stall­ment of your on­go­ing se­r­ial with ut­most in­ter­est, yet I felt some­how dis­ap­pointed when I came to the end. Meta-fic­tion is a diffi­cult genre to work in and re­quires a deft hand; in par­tic­u­lar, one must not set up too many sub­plots or Chekhov guns that one can­not even­tu­ally re­solve, par­tic­u­larly in the or­tho­dox mys­tery genre where the reader does ex­pect the Deca­logue to be fol­lowed and a so­lu­tion to ex­ist. Given the pro­longed de­lay in the fi­nal re­veal and con­tin­ued mono­logu­ing from the ap­par­ent vil­lain char­ac­ter, I am con­cerned that the end­ing will ul­ti­mately be a cop out, with per­haps some cliche res­o­lu­tion like “it was all a dream” or “it was all drug-in­duced para­noia” or “it was a bluff”. If so, a reader might justly feel be­trayed and cer­tainly not give the tale a pos­i­tive re­view in the Strand.

I see there are 7 days left be­fore the promised de­noue­ment. I look for­ward to an in­tel­lec­tu­al, yet el­e­gant game. Sin­cere­ly, your reader

13 December

Jack’s re­sponse came promptly the next day:

I main­tain my po­si­tion; yet again:

  1. So­lu­tions for this prob­lem do ex­ist (with pre­ci­sion).
  2. For­tu­nate­ly, I am a man of my word be­fore a man of prin­ci­ple.
  3. I guess you missed the part where this game end­ed?

Why not find a clever way to avoid the prob­lem in its en­tire­ty?
I 100% have no in­ten­tion of hid­ing from you. That wal­let is a fresh start Gw­ern.

I offer a so­lu­tion to en­sure that this does not hap­pen again, in­clud­ing a thor­ough
ex­pla­na­tion of every­thing I have com­piled from this in­fil­tra­tion that led me to my
cer­tain­ty. Is that not enough? Con­sider every other com­mit­ment I have made and
ap­pre­ci­ate that I made it to you be­fore an ex­tremely com­pe­tent an­a­lyst de­vot­ing the
time to this case did. I as­sure you this is a small price to pay for an al­liance of sorts,
the prob­a­bil­ity of hav­ing any amount of luck in align­ing such a scheme in any other
life­time be­fore falling prey to mis­take is some­thing so un­likely that even reach­ing
out to any stealth as­sas­si­na­tion mar­ket you may or may not have con­structed is of a
lit­tle worth in a time frame of 7 days when I’m un­der­ground for the sole pur­pose.
You un­der­stand where this is go­ing, you also re­al­ize that I’m a bet­ter friend than foe,
and so, I think al­lud­ing to Check­u­v’s gun is a sad re­flec­tion of your en­tire down­fall at
this point. I will tell you how this game ended to clar­ify any mis­con­cep­tion­s…I gave you
a time-stamp and it’s up to you to put a price on your free­dom, and the nec­es­sary
trust that you must have for me. I would be will­ing to play on your terms, but first you ac­cept
mine that have been clear. I will re­it­er­ate, there is no other story I will tell, we can be on
track as soon as you choose to see how eas­ily it is to haunt me in the ex­act same man­ner,
as a po­si­tion of re­spect I have en­crypted this for you. I am quite offended by some of the
ac­cu­sa­tions you are mak­ing, but I do not be­lieve in such stu­pidi­ties. We share com­mon
ground in that we are ex­tremely pas­sion­ate and have an un­wa­ver­ing con­vic­tion in our
tone when deal­ing with cer­tainty be­yond what oth­ers will claim con­spir­a­cy. Even more
so when we con­trol the ab­solute fu­ture of the sto­ry.

I’ll close, again, with the cer­tainty that any re­sis­tance will surely be your demise at this point.
This you un­der­stand is timed, and I can’t agree to­day is the 7th day, it is ac­tu­ally the 6th day.
As such, I am cer­tain there is a penalty ap­plied to the to­tal. You can stop this in­crease
by mak­ing that ini­tial de­posit at any time. After which, I will be sure to con­tact you again
from a differ­ent ac­count to a con­nected pseu­do­nym (OPSEC pur­pos­es) to con­tinue this crit­i­cal
dis­cus­sion. If this is not agree­able, then I con­tend that you will most cer­tainly be the next big
story for the en­tire world but not be­fore your name is dragged in the the dirt and you’re tor­tured
for your un­earthly pos­ses­sions by some rogue team won­der­ing how on earth they missed you.

If this does­n’t make it clear how every­thing will fol­low after this mes­sage then I fear for
the un­for­tu­nate state of limbo you will be liv­ing when you hear the news break of a
shock­ing dis­cov­ery and a to­tal re­ver­sal in Ross’ pend­ing case in­clud­ing the de­tails that
will surely have your name every­where, no thanks to me. I will be watch­ing that ad­dress
and fol­low­ing your oblig­a­tions I will con­tinue to be a man of my word if you so choose to start
treat­ing me with the re­spect I clearly de­serve. If you should ig­nore every­thing I will be back
to col­lect the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion and close the case in the ex­act fash­ion I have ex­plic­itly
men­tioned. Do not bother to write back, I will be on hia­tus for what­ever time it takes. I sug­gest
you ei­ther get a very good lawyer at this point or get your head out of your ass. Your suc­ceed­ing
re­sponses only hurt your pock­ets among other things, I promise that to be 100% ac­cu­rate if you
plan on fix­ing every­thing.

Un­til next time I will be vig­i­lant and hon­or­ing our every move Gw­ern.

19f7evHC6Et3VK9F5KGjJ2tYECo3seLFkU

I’m your very worst trou­ble right now, I just hope you catch that I have the very best in­ten­tions for you and there­fore wish you well, but also have equal ca­pac­ity to make this life­time a very use­less one for you if you can­not come to the right con­clu­sions.

Good bye for now Gw­ern.

I was a lit­tle amused by the in­sin­u­a­tion that I was the San­juro run­ning “As­sas­si­na­tion Mar­ket” and by Jack’s con­tin­ued high self­-es­teem (“an ex­tremely com­pe­tent an­a­lyst” no less!), but oth­er­wise, this was get­ting bor­ing: Jack’s threats were even cruder than be­fore, and his claims even less cred­i­ble. I re­marked that his writ­ings sounded crazy, but he’s kept it up long enough and made enough un­sup­ported ac­cu­sa­tions I’m be­gin­ning to won­der: maybe Jack re­ally is crazy, and not sim­ply an im­ma­ture teen or drunk on the prospect of gain­ing mil­lions of dol­lars or adopt­ing a per­sona or try­ing to foil sty­lo­met­ric analy­sis or bluffing me on the off-chance I am Satoshi (the threats are risk-free after all2) or any of the other pos­si­bil­i­ties I had been con­sid­er­ing. Para­noid schiz­o­phre­nia? Bipo­lar dis­or­der in a manic phase? Some­thing more ex­otic? I try never to in­dulge in ad hominems be­cause it’s far too tempt­ing to write in­ter­locu­tors off as lazy, stu­pid, or crazy - but crazy peo­ple do ex­ist, after all. Think­ing about it more, Jack may be the first crazy per­son I have se­ri­ously dealt with at length on the In­ter­net. Oh, I’ve seen plenty of crazy peo­ple on­line - I’ve laughed at , I’ve looked over Hacker News’s Los­ethos (with a sense of ‘there but for the grace of god’), I’ve watched other peo­ple ar­gue with crazy peo­ple - but I think I’ve ei­ther never ac­tu­ally dealt with them or quickly flipped the bozo bit on them and dis­en­gaged. Un­der nor­mal sit­u­a­tions, on nor­mal top­ics, I have no rea­son to talk with them at length and grandil­o­quence is un­jus­ti­fied….

Ar­guably, the 20% chance is much too high, even in­ter­pret­ing it as a net prob­a­bil­ity that Satoshi would be able, will­ing, and ac­tu­ally pay: it seems un­likely that one could write up a con­vinc­ing ex­tor­tion note for that many peo­ple or that a calm care­ful per­son like Satoshi could be eas­ily bluffed. In ad­di­tion to the over­es­ti­mate and low hourly wage, the vari­ance of re­turn would be lit­er­ally lot­tery-like and not a good idea. On the other hand, “400 mil­lion peo­ple” is it­self some­thing of a worst-case since you could prob­a­bly as­sume Satoshi is male to halve it, and then as­sume he is a C++ pro­gram­mer to re­duce it down to per­haps un­der a mil­lion peo­ple, which mas­sively de­creases the de­nom­i­na­tor.

At least part of the prob­lem here is that in the crazy mir­ror land of the black­mar­kets and Bit­coin in gen­er­al, san­ity is hard to dis­tin­guish from in­san­i­ty, there re­ally are key bits of in­for­ma­tion ran­dom par­ties can have, not every­one talks straight, black­mail does pay­off, and there re­ally are hid­den mil­lion­aires & bil­lion­aires walk­ing around in plain sight. (As an ex­am­ple of the mir­rors of in­san­i­ty, I in­vite any­one to read the Silk Road 2 fo­rums and try to fig­ure out what was go­ing on in De­cem­ber 2013 - go and read the SSBD/Inigo/Libertas, the DPR2 key ro­ta­tion, the Cir­rus an­nounce­ment, Raoul’s quoted mes­sage from DPR2, the posts by De­f­con, the ‘ac­ci­den­tal’ ac­cess to the ad­min fo­rum, Ei­ley Orms­by’s com­ments, Or­a­cle’s in­sin­u­a­tions, the Tor­Mar­ket quote from the ven­dor fo­rum, etc, and parse it into a sin­gle co­her­ent sane nar­ra­tive. And con­sider what Satoshi’s es­ti­mated for­tune is at any mo­men­t.)

If Jack is crazy, should I be talk­ing to him at all? He prob­a­bly knows noth­ing, mere logic would not con­vince him, and it seems like the wrong thing could pro­voke him into some sort of re­gret­table ac­tion. And it’s not like I can do any­thing to help, he’s prac­ticed rea­son­ably good opsec as far as I could tell. But… I did en­joy writ­ing an­other re­ply mock­ing him again and rub­bing his nose in his fail­ure to pro­vide any ev­i­dence:

A reader could hardly ask for a more de­tailed re­sponse from their fa­vorite fic­tional au­thor! But I fear you be­came so wrapt in your im­pro­vised per­for­mance you en­tirely ne­glected the orig­i­nal goal: pro­vid­ing any ev­i­dence what­so­ever of your claims. Ze­ro. How can you pos­si­bly ex­pect me or any­one to se­ri­ously con­sider giv­ing you so much as a sin­gle bit­coin based on your lo­g­or­rhea and cryp­tic threats? Even or­di­nary black­mail­ers at least do their vic­tims the cour­tesy of prov­ing they have what they claim to have. You seem oddly offended that I even ask rather than pay up im­me­di­ate­ly. This is con­ducive to one con­clu­sion, as I stated at the be­gin­ning of our en­joy­able lit­tle cor­re­spon­dence: that you are bluffing and you in no wise have the damn­ing ev­i­dence you claim to have.

I look for­ward to the in­for­ma­tion about Ross, your proof that I am Satoshi, the alt­coin ma­te­ri­al, and the many other fas­ci­nat­ing things you have al­luded to. Don’t dis­ap­point me, Jack! If you can pro­vide a good case for any of that, it will be the bestest Christ­mas gift ever!

Se­ri­ous­ly, for all you say I’m a ge­nius, you must think I’m a mo­ron.

I must not have pro­voked him as well as I thought, be­cause his re­ply was the re­mark­ably la­con­ic:

God­speed.

Zut! Per­haps an in­sult­ing pun?

So. I guess you don’t know jack.

Ah, that got more of a re­sponse from Jack:

I do! I know that I promised this was go­ing to be the worst mis­take of your life Gw­ern. This will also be the worst Christ­mas of your life since you’re so seem­ingly op­ti­mistic.

I’ll be clos­ing this ac­count now.

And in­deed, the jack0fnone Red­dit ac­count was delet­ed.

But did the Jack saga end there? No. For­tu­nately (or un­for­tu­nate­ly), on 8:57PM EST 2013-12-13, I re­ceived a mes­sage from the Red­dit user satoshispudding:

[“up­date”]

Dear­est Nate, I just wanted to do you the cour­tesy of pass­ing this mes­sage on in a timely fash­ion. I rec­og­nize
that we had made an arrange­ment, and to that end I feel as if you’ve made the ob­vi­ous de­ci­sion to shrug off the guilt.
There­fore, I want to clar­ify that the due date spec­i­fied will be null and void upon fin­ish­ing this mes­sage. For times sake!

My ad­vice? Skip­ping past the pol­i­tics and the flashy new op­por­tu­ni­ties you’ve worked to se­cure; I think your par­ents
will feel most de­serv­ing of a call that will lightly touch on the im­pli­ca­tions of the cases you’re about to be dragged
through. Per­haps a call to Matt is in or­der as well? How’s Sil­ver Pro­duc­tions do­ing??? I can’t be­lieve that any of them
will see the del­i­cate or artis­tic side of any of these pro­jects.

Ob­vi­ous­ly, you will be in­form­ing them that this week­end is one of the last week­ends you will have to en­joy as a free man.
Do also in­form them that you have com­m­mit­ted some very ter­ri­ble crimes against your coun­try and against hu­man­i­ty.
Any chance of see­ing LF as a safe-haven for re­tire­ment is now gone (duh), and the Sil­ver name that they’ve worked so
hard to pre­serve will in fact be tainted (a­mong so many other things) be­fore the new year gets any lead at all.

Oh the great plea­sure it would bring me to make some­thing more eth­i­cal of this ex­change by shak­ing hands in front
of Reid Hall (GO CAXY’S!) now that might have been some­thing mem­o­rable, but I can’t imag­ine this ex­change brings you
any sort of sat­is­fac­tion what­so­ev­er.

The new time­line I will set for the start­ing date of your most mis­er­able days you’ve come to know them is 12/16/2013.

Your out­stand­ing debt at cur­rent is $650,000,000 and in just a few hours time (~1.5) it will have sur­passed a value of
$1,150,000,000 ac­cord­ing to the dates and spec­i­fi­ca­tions I’ve out­lined (with­out any pay­ment re­ceived yet). I an­tic­i­pate
that you are still un­trace­able, in­no­cent, and above all, I am still an “am­a­teur” with noth­ing to prove. For that very rea­son,
I am mak­ing it clear that I’ve reached a new level of dis­agree­ment and dis­sat­is­fac­tion in our present ne­go­ti­a­tions; I hope
that my ad­just­ments as well as clear stand­ing po­si­tion through­out the course of this re­solve is in­dica­tive of my clear
in­ten­tions once we’ve set­tled. If not, then your greed and clear in­abil­ity to make the right de­ci­sion to fold, will en­sure
that you’ve set­tled your mul­ti­ple debts in an en­vi­ron­ment that we both know is far less ac­co­mo­dat­ing and stim­u­lat­ing.

I see it wise to trust that we’re not so differ­ent Nate, take this small loss into ac­count and make some­thing more of it
with my help. Call­ing me crazy, con­sid­er­ing every­thing that I’ve promised will fall on you is not the most bril­liant
move to make. In any case, you say the proof is in the pud­ding! I hope you’ve swal­lowed your por­tion and truly feel
that I’m far more pre­pared than you pre­vi­ously as­sumed. For the last time I am here choos­ing to offer some­thing more
ben­e­fi­cial for both of us. You have big­ger things on your plate to han­dle right now, I agree with that much. Since this story
is cer­tain to change it’s course at this point, I sure hope you’re pre­pared to deal with the con­se­quences of your de­ci­sions if
we should still re­main in dis­agree­ment Nate.

Oh, come on - now I’m sup­posed to be ‽ This is just too ab­surd: Sil­ver is a busy man who trav­els the coun­try and writes books and is con­stantly an­a­lyz­ing sports (a topic I have close to zero in­ter­est in). Nor am I as good at sta­tis­tics as Sil­ver is. (One day…) I must be quite the men­sch to keep all these plates spin­ning and per­sonas run­ning - “Christ, what an imag­i­na­tion I’ve got!”

A threat to call ‘my’ par­ents or ‘Matt’ (no idea who that is) is hardly a threat to me. I am sure Jack did not call them any­more than he met with Ul­bricht’s lawyer. More patho­log­i­cal mega­lo­ma­nia and ly­ing. Jack has is­sues, but I am not qual­i­fied to say what they are and no way to in­ter­vene, sad­ly. Is it moral to keep ar­gu­ing with a nut? Might­n’t it nur­ture their delu­sions or, in re­mote sce­nar­ios, spur them into vi­o­lence? Jack had given no ev­i­dence that they had found my real iden­ti­ty, so I was no longer wor­ried for my own sake, but Sil­ver is a pub­lic fig­ure who could be lo­cated and at­tacked.

Won­der­ing about whether I should fi­nally bring his mono­logu­ing to a halt, I chick­ened out and re­peated my pre­vi­ous mes­sage with a tweak:

I look for­ward to the truth about DPR, your proof that I am Satoshi and Nate Sil­ver, the ex­changes I am the mas­ter­mind, and the many other fas­ci­nat­ing things you have al­luded to. Don’t dis­ap­point me, Jack! If you can pro­vide a good case for any of that, it will be the bestest Christ­mas gift ever!

14 December

On 9:33 PM, I was graced with an­other mes­sage from satoshispudding:

LOL it was in the name of keep­ing all spir­its lifted so I hope you can un­der­stand that I re­spect a good nights sleep (also get bored). You clearly de­serve it since you were fool­ish enough to gam­ble away your free­doms straight through into the bil­lion mark­er. What will your wife say when this all gets go­ing Gw­ern?

I think you mis­un­der­stood me. I made it clear that the ev­i­dence I pos­sess demon­strates that you have col­lab­o­ra­tively been op­er­at­ing sev­eral il­licit mar­ket­places, are or­ches­trat­ing an un­men­tion­able amount of scams on bit­cointalk.org, and op­er­at­ing busi­nesses that are laun­der­ing BILLIONS in all of this scam/pre-mined money through­out the world; specifi­cally the US, Japan, UK, and Chi­na.

Let’s not dis­tract our­selves with the en­tire list of charges right now, in­stead let me re­mind you that this ponzi scheme of yours has left sev­eral in­no­cent peo­ple in jail and in­debted to the courts as I have re­peat­edly stat­ed. Al­so, you’re shock­ingly re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing fraud­u­lent in­for­ma­tion to the FBI and the CIA, there’s no doubt about the for­mer or lat­ter in your case.

I guess this is where you send my warmest re­gards specifi­cally to Rick and Max; I’ll be rush­ing for both of them as well while you’re locked up in some Cal­i­for­nia State Prison and an in­mate is “pud­ding” it all in a more el­e­gant way.

Lessons Learned:

1. Make sure to be su­per OPSEC now and delete that pub­lic PGP key so that when the feds come and con­fis­cate every­thing this week you’re all safe LOL.

3. Cryp­tog­ra­phy is use­ful when both par­ties have some­thing they must en­crypt, else­where trans­parency is pre­ferred in com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

6. You are be­yond fucked.

2. 2 bil­lion dol­lars deep into this en­tire mess, and none the wiser about the sim­ple fact that you were doomed from the start–just as I had re­as­sured you Gavin.

I’m throw­ing away the key you self­-right­eous, ar­ro­gant prick. I also get to play the hero of your biggest story yet; I can­not wait to see your face!

The fail­ure to pro­vide any real ev­i­dence is by now pre­dictable, but there are still some in­ter­est­ing fea­tures. The men­tion of “Gavin” can only be a ref­er­ence to Gavin An­dresen, well-known Bit­coin de­vel­op­er, im­ply­ing that my se­cret ac­tiv­i­ties & iden­ti­ties are even more ex­haust­ing than I thought; Jack in­ad­ver­tently raises an in­ter­est­ing meta­phys­i­cal ques­tion when he asks what my (nonex­is­tent) wife would think of my crimes; and his num­ber­ing scheme is de­light­fully ec­cen­tric (why is les­son #2 so much less im­por­tant than #3 & #6? and are lessons #4 & #5 too top-se­cret to tell a man who is “be­yond fucked”?).

Re­gard­less, this game was start­ing to be­come tire­some. Jack is not say­ing any­thing gen­uinely new, so I quickly replied with an­other chal­lenge on the ev­i­dence:

Let’s not dis­tract our­selves with the en­tire list of charges right now

No no, let’s dis­tract our­selves! After all, if what you say is true, I will be go­ing to jail for a long time and won’t be en­joy­ing my­self. Let’s get into all the nit­ty-grit­ty, like who my wife is or how I am Nate Sil­ver and Satoshi Nakamoto and Gw­ern Bran­wen and Gavin An­dresen and They­mos and Fontas, and what proof you have. After all, there’s only 2 days left on your dead­line, right? Surely there’s no harm in post­ing your dossier pub­licly. What’s a dox be­tween friends?

If he replied with any ev­i­dence, the mono­logue might be worth lis­ten­ing to fur­ther, oth­er­wise, it was time to con­sider draw­ing this episode to a close.

15 December

10 AM:

LOL ob­vi­ously you’re not Nate Sil­ver. Your wife is Michele Cook-An­dresen, and your 2 chil­dren:

  • Dis­gusted (Robin)
  • Fa­ther­less (Will)

I dou­ble checked the spelling…I know how you feel about am­a­teur sub­mis­sions.

I knew you were never go­ing to pay any­thing Gav­in, you dope. You im­me­di­ately struck me as some­one far too ig­no­rant to gra­ciously ac­cept the idea of an unan­tic­i­pated in­ter­me­di­ary step­ping in and tak­ing an ac­tive role in se­cur­ing the big show. In­stead, this is what the world will ac­knowl­edge to be your des­per­ate “reach” after a very mis­cal­cu­lated per­for­mance on your be­half. I’ve arranged the terms of our agree­ment mul­ti­ple times, they 100% will not change for the life of any­one. Hon­esty is the most im­por­tant tool in our ne­go­ti­a­tion, I am un­bi­ased and com­mit­ted to strictly con­duct­ing our fu­ture busi­ness pro­ceed­ings with a pri­or­ity for my safety and yours.

I’m quite offended by just how thick you’ve come to think I am. We are most cer­tainly not friends, you’ve made that clear and there is noth­ing new to ne­go­ti­ate at this point read­ing your de­mands. Es­pe­cially when your out­stand­ing debts sur­passed ~2 mil­lion bit­coins. Your ex­cite­ment is very telling (noth­ing un­ex­pected there) so let me just re­as­sure you that you will have the op­por­tu­nity to get into the nit­ty-gritty of every­thing in sub­stan­tial de­tail + other MAJOR charges soon enough.

I’m a man of my word, as I have only con­tin­ued to be. There­fore my sug­ges­tion is that you make time to dis­cuss, first and fore­most, the se­ries of un­for­tu­nate events that will plague all of you on this bestest Christ­mas, Gavin. I’d per­son­ally start with your fam­i­ly, then dis­close every­thing to the few other nec­es­sary in­di­vid­u­als at the foundation/elsewhere. We both know where this is likely ex­pected to go. Note: there’s very high cer­tainty on my end that it is not a full dis­clo­sure of your dox over lunch/skype with the so­lu­tions promised. So, at this point I’d say that I’m 99.999999% sure I’m go­ing to head out East. I’ll leave you to brain­storm­ing, Gavin. I’d say you’re an in­cred­i­bly in­ter­est­ing man, but you al­ready know that in de­tail. Oh hey! Al­so…­can I fill in for you at Ze­ro-Hedge?

I need you to in­form Roger and Erik that I will be send­ing for them too. This is con­cern­ing every­thing ugly I was talk­ing about from our con­ver­sa­tion ear­lier this week. I’m off to cel­e­brate, I hope that you can un­der­stand why.

Lessons Learned:

$100,000,000>$2,500,000,000<Prison

I can say with great con­fi­dence, that this is a clear dis­play of id­iocy from sev­eral at its finest. Have a good day “friend”.

I can only shake my head at this - if I’m “ob­vi­ously not Nate Sil­ver” then what the hell was the “Nate” and “Sil­ver Pro­duc­tions” be­fore about? (Is “Roger” Roger Ver? Then “Erik” must be Erik Voorhees.) But Jack seems to be stick­ing to his ‘Natoshi Gw­ern­vin’ story in bring­ing up “Michele Cook-An­dresen” (Gavin An­dresen’s real wife, ac­cord­ing to a WSJ pro­file of An­dresen) and ap­par­ently claim­ing he has found Gav­in’s chil­dren’s names (I did not check this part).

I am trou­bled at Jack bring­ing up Gav­in’s fam­i­ly. In par­tic­u­lar, by the “I’m go­ing to head out East” line: Gav­in’s pub­lic pro­files like his Twit­ter ac­count state he lives in Amher­st, MA - which would in­deed be in the “East” for most of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. So I emailed An­dresen a copy of my write­up. I de­cided it was prob­a­bly bet­ter to not re­ply fur­ther to Jack un­til I heard back.

22 December

After read­ing it, he gave me per­mis­sion to pub­lish it and did not seem wor­ried. I sent Jack a fi­nal PM:

Your last mes­sage is ap­palling: you are mak­ing threats of vi­o­lence against iden­ti­fi­able peo­ple, their spous­es, and their chil­dren - you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of de­cen­cy, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of de­cen­cy?

I’ve in­formed Gavin of every­thing and have posted a full writeup of our lit­tle tête-à-tête to https://www.gwern.net/Blackmail I think we are done here for good.

But I want to add a last com­ment (par­tially out of grat­i­tude for the in­ter­est­ing time, par­tially be­cause I feel guilty for lead­ing you on even after mat­ters be­came clear).

I do not think you are well. I have shown your mono­logues to many peo­ple, and al­most to a man, they find them… off. Ab­nor­mal. ‘Hi­lar­i­ous’, ‘grandiose’, ‘mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal’, ‘dis­or­ga­nized’, ‘dis­eased’, ‘para­noid-schiz­o­phrenic’, ‘bipo­lar’ - these are the words peo­ple use after read­ing through your mes­sages. Leav­ing aside the fact that al­most all your re­search is fun­da­men­tally wrong, just your writ­ing style alone evinces that you are not al­right. I don’t know if you suffer from men­tal ill­ness, or if it is due to the drug you men­tioned abus­ing (metham­phet­a­mine?), but you are not well. You may think you are well, or think you are re­spon­si­bly us­ing your fa­vored drug, or you may even think your prob­lem is a gifted that pro­vides you spe­cial in­sight into the world be­yond the norm; but you are not, and it is not. You need to get help be­fore you wreck your own life or an­oth­er’s. It only takes one slip to do some­thing that can­not be un­done. Please do some­thing about your prob­lem: if it’s drug abuse, get help quit­ting; if it’s un­di­ag­nosed schiz­o­phre­nia or bipo­lar dis­or­der, there are effec­tive treat­ments, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and oth­er­wise, for those is­sues.

But ig­nor­ing the prob­lem won’t make it go away.

I did re­ceive one last mes­sage on 2014-02-03:

Just some crazy guy,

It’s so odd how Char­lie was a free man one day and now his life is ba­si­cally over. We both knew what a pawn he re­ally was though. Tell Gavin I said thanks for al­low­ing you to pub­lish me last mon­th! I’m sure the bit­coin foun­da­tion has been thrilled to re­ceive calls all this past week about last weeks in­ci­dent lol!

You should’ve acted when you had the chance, I’m sorry to see bit­coin hit the ground so fast this year. The day I stand be­fore you Gw­ern, you’ll wish it was all un­der very differ­ent cir­cum­stances. You’ll wish we were stand­ing look­ing at each other at eye­-level too. But most­ly, you’ll wish we were less than en­e­mies from the start, be­cause I reached out to help and you spit in my face lol.

Meth? Schizo? Re­al­ly!? Lol way to mix it up for your au­di­ence even changed up the text a bit I see? I can’t wait to meet you in the flesh–­soon enough!! I ob­vi­ously have never had proof so please do me the cour­tesy of putting this last mes­sage up on gw­ern.net. Have a splen­did year! ;) RIP Satoshi/BTC Foun­da­tion 2014.

-j0n

As of 2016-07-23, I have heard noth­ing fur­ther from Jack, nor of any re­al-world in­ci­dents con­nected to this. So he seems to have given up. I hope he did get help, but I am not op­ti­mistic. It was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, over­all. But I think the next time I re­ceive a strange men­tion and ca­su­ally note that it sounded like the au­thor was crazy, I will prob­a­bly ig­nore it or break the con­ver­sa­tion off ear­ly: one di­a­logue with a crazy per­son is enough.

2014

March

16

At 8:53PM, I re­ceived 2 threat­en­ing emails from “ya pravda ”, read­ing as fol­lows:

I’ll come straight to the point. I am com­pil­ing a de­tailed re­port which will out you as Dan Crow. It in­cludes sev­eral pages of ir­refutable ev­i­dence that not even you could talk your way out of. I have no par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in pub­lish­ing it - I ac­tu­ally like most of your work, how­ev­er, I do need you to ad­dress a cou­ple of is­sues.

Which dark­net mar­kets are you in­volved with ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rect­ly? Think very care­fully be­fore an­swer­ing this ques­tion. If you pro­vide false in­for­ma­tion I will ter­mi­nate this di­a­logue and pub­lish my re­port.

…It seems a few peo­ple have taken a dis­like to evo­lu­tion mar­ket­place for no dis­cernible rea­son. I sus­pect many of those are your alias­es, but I haven’t even started to re­search just how much in­volve­ment you have in which mar­kets. It would seem to be an ex­tra­or­di­nary co­in­ci­dence if cloud nine mar­ket has noth­ing to do with you for ex­am­ple, but I need to do some more work on this. Any­way, I would like a copy of the re­port you wrote in the pri­vate mod sub­red­dit and full de­tails of the dis­cus­sion with your con­tact (avid). If there are gen­uine se­cu­rity is­sues, we will take the site offline. You should also agree to dis­countinue all your at­tempts to dis­credit evo­lu­tion.

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I was a lit­tle amused by the ra­tio­nale given: you are both­ered by peo­ple bad­mouthing your mar­ket, so you de­cide to… go around threat­en­ing peo­ple? That does not seem like a very good way to win friends & in­flu­ence peo­ple.

But since I am not a “Dan Crow” (and my searches failed to turn up any­one of that nick on the DNMs or else­where), I was a lit­tle baffled by this, but after dis­cussing it with /u/the_avid (a se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist who has found holes in a num­ber of DNMs & con­sulted for them), we think this is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Evo­lu­tion Mar­ket­place, which is a mi­nor DNM founded by An­glo­phone carders after their Tor Card­ing Fo­rum was hacked. the_avid had posted to a pri­vate sub­red­dit a short writeup (which I’ve since re­posted pub­licly) of the his­tory of card­ing fo­rums and why An­glo­phone card­ing fo­rums were in­se­cure & in­com­pe­tent com­pared to the Slavic orig­i­nals, to sup­port his ar­gu­ment that Evo­lu­tion was un­usu­ally dan­ger­ous for drug buy­ers to use. Then a mod al­luded to the post in a pub­lic dis­cus­sion when he im­plied Evo­lu­tion was to be avoid­ed, and while not ID­ing the_avid as the au­thor, clearly was talk­ing about ei­ther him or my­self. Hence the Evo­lu­tion staffer’s threats to me: he as­sumed I had writ­ten up the ma­te­r­ial based on tips from the_avid. A rea­son­able guess, but wrong.

The Dan Crow thing is sim­ply wrong, how­ev­er, and I was cu­ri­ous what on earth led them to him. So I replied with my usual bait­ing:

We can talk when I see that re­port; since you were threat­en­ing to make it pub­lic any­way, that should be no skin off your nose.

But also as usu­al, they de­clined to cough up any­thing mean­ing­ful:

Wrong an­swer Dan.
Let’s try again.
Last time.

Which dark­net mar­kets are you in­volved with, ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rect­ly?

If he re­ally had a re­port with “ir­refutable ev­i­dence” not even I could talk my way out of, and was plan­ning to make it pub­lic if I re­fused to give him in­for­ma­tion, then he should be per­fectly happy to pro­vide me it and cut through all the te­dious ne­go­ti­at­ing - I would see the iron­clad ev­i­dence, re­al­ize he had me by the curlies, and leak like a sieve. Hence, he was bluffing. Sad but pre­dictable. It oc­curred to me that I did­n’t yet have proof this was Evo­lu­tion’s fault; hy­po­thet­i­cally speak­ing, it might be an­other DNM try­ing to make Evo­lu­tion look bad. So:

BTW, I for­got to ask this ear­lier but: how do I know you even rep­re­sent Evo­lu­tion in the first place? Which staffer are you?

Mak­ing me fur­ther sus­pi­cious, he welshed on any de­tails:

Ok have it your way.
Don’t say I did­n’t give you a chance to fix this.

Since we were clearly done, I threw in a taunt:

So you were ly­ing about be­ing from Evo­lu­tion too? How dis­ap­point­ing.

No re­ply. A check of Red­dit and the Evo­lu­tion fo­rums turned up no doxes ei­ther. Was it all a bluff?

2015

February

On “Feb­ru­ary 08, 2015, 08:38:25 AM”, I re­ceived an en­crypted PM on the Agora fo­rums from a new ac­count named “nwerg”, ti­tled “your av­er­age dox­ing”, which said:

Gw­ern, hav­ing pe­rused your Black­mail page and hav­ing had a good laugh at the con­spir­a­to­r­ial wannabes there, I’m here to in­form you that you can in fact be doxxed rather eas­i­ly. If I’m the first to do so, do I get a boun­ty?

Your full name is [], al­though you go by [].

Your birth­day is [].

You were prob­a­bly born in [], be­cause your SSN be­gins with [].

Your moth­er’s full maiden name is [].

Your phone num­ber, or re­ally your par­ents’ phone num­ber, is []. Their/your ad­dress is known, suffice it to say you’re about 60 miles away from [].

You have (or had) a dog named Char­lie.

You’ve done an amaz­ing job keep­ing pic­tures of your­self off the In­ter­net, with one ex­cep­tion that I could find ([]). You are the per­son in the cen­ter.

At this link ([]), in the com­ments, you messed up by hav­ing your real name next to the Gw­ern avatar.

I don’t know where I’m go­ing with this though. I con­sid­ered co­erc­ing you to hand over your bit­coin wal­let be­gin­ning with 1G­b89, but you would never ac­qui­esce be­cause what’s pre­vent­ing me from re­peat­edly de­mand­ing more money to not re­lease the same in­for­ma­tion? Noth­ing. How about if I vend the in­for­ma­tion on Evo­lu­tion, where you seem to be dis­liked? Or up­load the in­for­ma­tion to Doxbin?

How about we com­pro­mise and you send me 2 BTC from that wal­let, and you have my word none of this ever gets out. My wal­let is 192sQ1WG7mMPMhTPJqqXCmVs1aGEhLuYuB

I will give you my pub­lic key in my next mes­sage.


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I replied 3 days later on 2015-02-11:

Gw­ern, hav­ing pe­rused your Black­mail page and hav­ing had a good laugh at the con­spir­a­to­r­ial wannabes there, I’m here to in­form you that you can in fact be doxxed rather eas­i­ly. If I’m the first to do so, do I get a boun­ty?

Nah. I think I phrased it as no one both com­pe­tent and malev­o­lent has doxed me yet? Even ex­clud­ing old friends and ac­quain­tances, at least 3 or 4 peo­ple that I know of have al­ready done it. (The first one did it through my sis­ter, which is to­tally cheat­ing, but nev­er­the­less.)

Your phone num­ber, or re­ally your par­ents’ phone num­ber, is []. Their/your ad­dress is known, suffice it to say you’re about 60 miles away from [].

Their. Un­for­tu­nate, re­al­ly; I would have liked to at­tend the Ul­bricht tri­al.

You have (or had) a dog named Char­lie.

Had. Sad, I re­ally thought he’d make it to this year.

At this link ([]), in the com­ments, you messed up by hav­ing your real name next to the Gw­ern avatar.

Oh wow, I did­n’t even know about that one! I al­ways fig­ured peo­ple would go through some­thing more ob­vi­ous like Pay­pal.

I con­sid­ered co­erc­ing you to hand over your bit­coin wal­let be­gin­ning with 1G­b89, but you would never ac­qui­esce be­cause what’s pre­vent­ing me from re­peat­edly de­mand­ing more money to not re­lease the same in­for­ma­tion? Noth­ing.

I’ve thought about the prob­lem a lit­tle my­self. From an eco­nom­ics per­spec­tive, black­mail should be fine: if there are gains from trade to be had, peo­ple will pay it, oth­er­wise they won’t. And it can serve as a cheap de­cen­tral­ized law en­force­ment. From a black­mar­ket per­spec­tive, it’s a stand­ing offer to all pen­testers, which is, in the long run, good for black­mar­ket users.

But the up­front pay­ment does not work for ex­actly that trust rea­son, which seems to bar deals. My con­clu­sion is that the so­lu­tion is sim­ple: in­stead of de­mand­ing a lump­sum, a black­mailer should de­mand a stream of small pay­ments, and the black­mailee buys si­lence in chunks. So for ex­am­ple, sup­pose the value of not be­ing black­mailed is 2btc; you can’t sim­ply de­mand 2btc up­front be­cause there is no way to cred­i­bly com­mit to not re­leas­ing the data; what you could do in­stead is ex­tract the net present value equiv­a­lent of 2btc over an in­defi­nite time pe­riod by de­mand­ing 0.0083btc per month in­defi­nite­ly; that’s 0.1btc per year, and if I dis­count at a rea­son­able value of 5% per year, then the net present value of that stream of pay­ments is in­deed ~2btc ( = 2.05), so the black­mailer loses noth­ing if he’s hon­est - but it has the im­por­tant fea­ture that pay­ments by the black­mailee can be dis­con­tin­ued im­me­di­ately if the black­mailer welsh­es.

(DPR’s pay­ments to the SR1 DoSer is an ex­am­ple of this: he paid week­ly, so if the DoSer had gone back on his word, DPR could sim­ply stop pay­ing.)

How about we com­pro­mise and you send me 2 BTC from that wal­let, and you have my word none of this ever gets out. My wal­let is 192sQ1WG7mMPMhTPJqqXCmVs1aGEhLuYuB

I think you know I’m not go­ing to pay any­thing. It would be an­noy­ing to have my name splashed all over, but I re­signed my­self to that back in ~2010 when I de­cided to set up my web­site; I see Gw­ern as a pen name now, and not a real pseu­do­nym. I’m glad it man­aged to last to 2015.

How about if I vend the in­for­ma­tion on Evo­lu­tion, where you seem to be dis­liked?

I don’t think they dis­like me that much… The threat on my Black­mail page was be­cause of the_avid’s es­say and I posted that pub­licly a while ago, so why would they pay for my dox now?

Or up­load the in­for­ma­tion to Doxbin?

You can, but I’m not sure why you would both­er.

I will give you my pub­lic key in my next mes­sage.

FWIW, it’s safer to in­clude the pub­lic key in the orig­i­nal mes­sage. Harder to pull off any sort of MITM or leak the fact that a key ex­change is be­ing done.

Al­so, the Agora fo­rums is a bad con­tact. I don’t read it be­cause it’s so stuffed with spam, I just crawl it. I saw your PM only be­cause I was check­ing the cookie was still valid.

Agora fo­rum down­time meant he did­n’t re­ply un­til the 13th:

You re­moved the com­ment, I see. Not even a to­ken 0.01 BTC for alert­ing you to its pres­ence?

Ac­tu­al­ly… you make a good point about that one. I did­n’t know about it at all, and so I did learn some­thing in­ter­est­ing from you (specifi­cal­ly, that Gra­vatar be­trayed me). I’m not go­ing to pay black­mail, but I am will­ing to pay for in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion, and ₿0.01 is a fair amount.

Any­how, you’ve been a good sport about the whole thing, I’d frankly have been amazed if you gave me any­thing. So un­like most doxxers, I’ll prob­a­bly keep this to my­self and just fade back into the mist and you’ll never hear from me again. No Doxbin, no Evo­lu­tion. This en­tire ex­er­cise was mainly in re­sponse to the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of fan­boys you seem to have de­vel­oped on Red­dit, who think of you as a demi-god for some rea­son. This was my petty way of show­ing that, no, you’re not some su­per-anony­mous enig­ma, you’re just a [].

I never claimed oth­er­wise. I find the re­cent stuff on Red­dit more than a lit­tle over the top as well. Or have you seen the stuff on Quo­ra? Some­one seems to spend an in­or­di­nate amount of time com­ing up with all sorts of bizarre and often per­sonal ques­tions they seem to want me to an­swer…

And Pay­Pal had noth­ing to do with it, BTW. No, the ac­tual method was even more pro­saic: a sim­ple [] ..

I fig­ured as much. As far as I know, [] and [] are prob­a­bly the main leaks. IIRC, I ac­cepted the risk with [] but I got care­less about the [].

As a post-script, feel free to add this con­ver­sa­tion to your Black­mail page, with your vi­tal de­tails redact­ed, as it would amuse me to no end. Though I doubt it’s go­ing to hap­pen.

Of course. There’s no point in hav­ing a big black­mail page to prove that I don’t pay black­mail - and then leave in­ci­dents out!

[]

Last ques­tion: I no­ticed the let­ters in “gw­ern bran­wen” hap­pens to be con­tained in your full real name (in­clud­ing mid­dle name). Was that on pur­pose, or a happy co­in­ci­dence? I con­sid­ered ana­gram­ming your whole name but de­cided I’d just ask you in­stead.

More than a co­in­ci­dence, less than on pur­pose; with my funny name, I’ve al­ways been drawn to more con­so­nan­t-y names, so the over­lap is not ran­dom.

Of my at­tempted black­mail­ers and dox­ers, nwerg was by far the most com­pe­tent and I ac­tu­ally learned some­thing from him.

November

In No­vem­ber 2015, A.P. suc­ceeded in de-anonymiz­ing me through a known route (not Gra­vatar). He de­clined the boun­ty.

2017

July

In July 2017, G.W. de-anonymized me by care­ful use of names on so­cial me­dia and grad­u­ally ty­ing them to­geth­er, find­ing the same thing as the ear­lier Feb­ru­ary 2015 de-anonymiza­tion as well. (S­ince the other items would’ve sufficed, I count his as a sep­a­rate de-anonymiza­tion.) He de­clined the boun­ty.

November

In No­vem­ber 2017, A.T. emailed me about a deanonymiza­tion some time ago, but un­for­tu­nately for­got how ex­actly he did it, and de­clined the boun­ty.

December

In De­cem­ber 2017, one per­son noted that some of my old 2013 Bit­coin sale trans­ac­tions on #bitcoin-otc hap­pened to leak my name via bank ac­counts. Whups. (They did not claim the boun­ty.)

See Also

Appendix

Fanfiction

On 2014-04-09, my anony­mous feed­back form was used to link to a “fan­fic” on pastebin.com—a story of Satoshi cre­at­ing the Gen­e­sis Block. (I am not sure if the pro­tag­o­nist is sup­posed to be me.) I felt it was good enough that it did not de­serve to ex­pire, and archive it here with some gen­tle an­no­ta­tion.

“Dad­dy!”

He imag­ined her mouth pressed against the tile floor and winced. The muffled voice had de­scended from the bath­room on the first floor, the source of the main vent stack, which parted the in­su­la­tion be­tween the floor joists above and de­scended into the ce­ment floor be­low. She knew he could hear him through this rather dis­agree­able con­duit, even over the per­sis­tent hum­ming and click­ing.

“Lunch is ready!”

The thuds of her bound­ing foot­steps re­ver­ber­ated as they trailed off to­wards the din­ing room.

Re­turn­ing his fo­cus to the work­sta­tion in front of him, he dis­tract­edly lifted the teacup sit­ting to the left of the mon­i­tor to his lips, and tak­ing a sip, quickly re­al­ized how cold it was. Set­ting it back down on the porce­lain coaster with a gri­mace, he paused, eye­ing it, be­fore gen­tly nudg­ing it into align­ment with the cir­cu­lar brown stain per­ma­nently em­bed­ded atop the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois lo­go.

The base­ment was only par­tially fin­ished: tacky wood pan­el­ing lined all four ex­te­rior walls, yet there were no par­ti­tion walls, other than a bump-out near the front of the house that en­closed a small, dis­mal, emer­gen­cy-use bath­room. Next to the bath­room stood a dust-cov­ered bar piled high with boxes and cruft, decades re­moved from any use for its in­tended pur­pose. Clearly the work of a for­mer own­er, per­formed piece­meal over months of nights and week­ends, with the ex­pected re­sult: a half-fin­ished, shoddy job, and surely a far cry from the orig­i­nal mag­nan­i­mous vi­sion.

It had been cold down here, too: though the boiler for the ra­di­ant heat­ing sys­tem stood along the side wall, no ra­di­a­tors had been in­stalled be­low grade. There was only the click of the boil­er’s cir­cuit, the whoosh of the flames, and the screech of the flue clos­ing to keep him com­pa­ny, as the sys­tem per­co­lated the heat up through the cen­tu­ry-old pip­ing, ben­e­fit­ing only the non-troll­ish fam­ily mem­bers up­stairs.

But it had­n’t been so much as chilly down here for at least a year and a half – even now, in early Jan­u­ary, what with all those lit­tle dy­namos around. He swiveled in his chair to con­sider them. They had been good lit­tle troop­ers, over­all.

A wide book­shelf, long dis­gorged of such di­verse tomes as The The­ory of Money and Credit, The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, and Cri­tique of Pure Rea­son, over­flowed now with spare power sup­plies, stacks of tiny sil­ver hard disks, and a spaghetti bowl of yel­low and blue Cat-5 patch ca­bles – half of them neatly coiled and tied off, the other half dan­gling in loose curls halfway to the dusty floor.

To the side of the book­shelf, and across from his work­sta­tion table, an­other pre­vi­ous own­er, prior even to the shoddy work­er, had in­stalled an N-gauge train set, tak­ing up a good eight by six­teen chunk of floor­space. It was­n’t en­tirely en­closed, though: an ingress had been cut into it, so one could get right in the cen­ter and watch the trains travel their routes up close and per­son­al. It was the six­ties ver­sion of a man-cave: some­where to get away, if only for a mo­ment, from the per­sis­tent de­mands of fam­ily mem­bers above.

Of course all the good stuff that once ex­isted on the minia­ture land­scape, the stuff that was­n’t glued down, had been taken long ago, leav­ing the im­prob­a­bly di­verse ter­rain - snow-capped moun­tain peaks (re­plete with re­quired tun­nel) de­scend­ing into a small rural town bor­dered by rolling farm­lands - ut­terly de­void of any en­gines or cars, though the var­i­ous farm­steads, train sta­tions, and gas sta­tions re­mained.

It would al­most be post-apoc­a­lyp­tic, if not for the few res­i­dents that re­mained: the pa­per boy hold­ing aloft to­day’s edi­tion, the busi­ness­man on the train plat­form (glanc­ing at his watch for eter­ni­ty), the farmer car­ry­ing pails of milk; the hitch­hik­er. They were the lucky ones - the ones just be­yond the sweep­ing arc of pre-teen arm reach, who avoided be­ing plucked from their glued-down bases, leav­ing only two gnarled spots of white plas­tic, or oc­ca­sion­ally the stump of a leg.

In­stead of a nu­clear at­tack, how­ev­er, it looked more like an alien in­va­sion had taken over this minia­ture world. A dozen or so as­sorted species of net­book were strewn about the land­scape, whether perched atop the moun­tain peaks, or wedged be­tween rows of pines, or loung­ing be­neath the sin­gle stop­light sus­pended over Main Street. Each had its black um­bil­i­cal power cord and blue net­work ca­ble trail­ing away, like oth­er-worldly snakes, off-world and un­der the table, where a hand­ful of surge-pro­tected power strips had self­-assem­bled, daisy-chain­ing them­selves to­gether to power the in­vad­ing force.

These lit­tle guys were the source of the in­ces­sant click­ing and hum­ming, a white noise to which he had not only got­ten used to over the pre­vi­ous eigh­teen months, but had come to re­quire as a fun­da­ment of ex­is­tence, such that a few months into the project he had in­stalled a small fan in the mas­ter bed­room up­stairs, lest he lay awake in the in­ter­minable si­lence.

The ther­mal re­sult of all the click­ing and hum­ming, usu­ally an un­wel­come by-prod­uct need­ing abate­ment, was em­braced, as they took the place of the ab­sent ra­di­a­tors, con­vert­ing the elec­tric­ity that came in through the new 200-amp patch panel (for which he had to eBay some of his rarer bound tomes to swing, what with the per­mit­ting and all) into a vo­lu­mi­nous heat which, though keep­ing that half of the base­ment at a toasty 78° Fahren­heit, still left his tea cold after an obliv­i­ous twenty min­utes of de­bug­ging.

He rose from his stool with a creak (the stool, not the man, as he was not yet even fifty) and shuffled around the table. En­ter­ing the in­let, he was caught for a mo­ment by the hyp­notic twin­kling of the rows of green lights on the steel-blue Linksys twen­ty-four-port Fast Eth­er­net switch. It was like gaz­ing into fire; but the fire these lights rep­re­sented would heat up an­other type of land­scape, warm­ing some, and burn­ing oth­ers - if the em­bers could be fanned long enough to keep the spark alive un­til it took.

Re­gain­ing him­self, he crouched low, if not with a creak then an au­di­ble groan, and kneel­ing on the hard floor, stretched for­ward to reach the strips, pow­er­ing each mas­ter switch off in turn.

As the click­ing stopped and the fans spun down (in ad­di­tion to the lack of charge­able bat­ter­ies in these barely func­tional net­books, half the screens in the fleet were cracked, both byprod­ucts of his fru­gal ac­qui­si­tion method via eBay), he was sur­prised that im­me­di­ately upon ris­ing the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture felt markedly cool­er, now that his lit­tle com­pan­ions were dead.

Each had, stick­ing out of its side like an awk­ward ves­ti­gial ap­pendage, a thumb dri­ve, again of var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties and man­u­fac­tur­ers: some brightly col­ored and adorned with ad­ver­tis­ing lo­gos and neat lit­tle metal slide-away cov­ers, pil­fered from var­i­ous ven­dor con­fer­ence swag bags, while oth­ers sported translu­cent plas­tic neon cov­ers with­out any adorn­ment - the no-name bulk ones, most likely ac­quired from Black Fri­day sales at Fry’s.

He searched for the nicest one (the code con­tained within all of them was the same), an or­ange one with the metal slide cov­er, and pulling it out with a soft thwick, eyed it for a mo­ment, be­fore toss­ing it into the air and catch­ing it. Clos­ing his palm around it as if it were a tal­is­man, he paused, as but­ter­flies sud­denly swelled in his ab­domen. His fist be­gan to shake, ever so slight­ly, and he gripped the thing tighter.

It has come too far now. It has a life of its own. It needs to be re­leased. To be freed.

These are the things he said, fight­ing him­self. It was­n’t his de­ci­sion any­more. The thing worked, in this small world at least. It wanted to be free now; to live or die on its own mer­its.

Re­gard­less, his feet stood firm, so he tried a differ­ent tack.

It’ll never work. It has no in­trin­sic val­ue, there’s no way to boot­strap it. It vi­o­lates all the laws of how money comes into be­ing. It’s just an ex­per­i­ment, any­way, and it will fail like all the oth­ers be­fore it. Dig­i­cash. Cy­ber­cash. E-Gold. Lib­erty Re­serve. All road­kill on the high­way to dig­i­tal mon­ey. It’s re­ally just an aca­d­e­mic ex­er­cise, noth­ing more.

Deep down, he knew bet­ter, but say­ing these things got his feet mov­ing.

Next to his main dev box stood a beast of a ma­chine. It was an old rack­-mount Com­paq Pro­Liant ML370, picked up at a swap meet for $250, rails still at­tached. It was a pretty big deal back in the dot-com boom days, and the 7200 RPM SCSI dri­ves it took were abun­dantly avail­able sec­ond-hand. He had seven ex­tras to start with, which he could hot-swap to keep the thing up for at least a year or more con­tin­u­ous­ly, and the yel­lowed and ag­ing APC UPS be­neath the table, ac­quired via Craigslist, was also still good for a cou­ple of hours if the lo­cal util­ity went bel­ly-up, even if it was orig­i­nally rated for eight.

An old Dymo la­bel maker - the ones that ac­tu­ally press into the heavy plas­tic tape, de­form­ing it white into the shape of the let­ters, was used to tag the beast of a ma­chine. The newer la­bel mak­ers, the ones that ther­mally print black let­ters on a thin white tape, just did­n’t have that same sense of grav­i­tas. But this; this looked good. Set dead cen­ter, in all caps, the blue tape an­nounced:

GENESIS

He had lifted the name from the Project Gen­e­sis in Wrath of Khan, a plot line re­gard­ing an ex­per­i­ment to ter­raform a bar­ren waste of a planet into some­thing akin to a par­adise. It was a not-so-sub­tle hint at the grandiose goals of the project – and what that vi­sion im­plied about the present state of affairs.

Of course you could also read into it the Bib­li­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion (re­leased a few years be­fore Wrath of Khan) which pretty much laid out how this whole ball of wax was willed into ex­is­tence by the Cre­ator from noth­ing­ness.

Ei­ther way you took it, it was pretty ball­sy, and he knew it.

But he was­n’t feel­ing those same co­jones now, as his un­steady hand flipped the tiny mag­i­cal boom-stick across the backs of his fin­gers. Though re­peat­ing the mantra of guar­an­teed fail­ure, his body be­trayed this act of self­-hyp­no­sis, un­der­stand­ing clearly where this might all go.

That’s why the bootable OS on the stick, run­ning Win­dows XP, was con­fig­ured with a Tor con­nec­tion in the first place. And why he pub­lished the whitepa­per last Hal­loween un­der a pseu­do­nym, through an anony­mous Ger­man email ser­vice. If this ac­tu­ally worked, if it scaled prop­er­ly, if - in his end­less nights and week­ends of de­bug­ging - he had caught all the se­ri­ous bugs, ex­cep­tions, and edge cases in the pro­to­col, well then…

Perch­ing him­self back on the stool, he re­al­ized he for­got to fill the coin­base padding, the ex­tra empty bits in the first block, cre­ated to boot­strap the en­tire chain so min­ing could take over from there. These bits would hold a mes­sage – part artist’s sig­na­ture, part hacker easter egg for those down the line. His orig­i­nal thoughts in­cluded quot­ing ei­ther Neil Arm­strong, Win­ston Churchill, or even Louis Arm­strong. He had set­tled on The Boss: Bruce, with the line he quoted at the end of each show, way back in the day:

Re­mem­ber: in the end, no­body wins un­less every­one wins.

Now, how­ev­er, he was hav­ing sec­ond thoughts. De­spite his ear­lier mea­sures at anonymi­ty, this choice would pretty clearly peg him as an Amer­i­can. Or at least a res­i­dent of the West­ern Hemi­sphere. That was too much to give away…but it was such a good quote.

He sat for a mo­ment, then de­cided the quote should in­stead be more like a time­stamp. After all, the whole sys­tem was based in part on a dis­trib­uted time­stamp­ing ser­vice, and he wanted a way to prove the thing was boot­strapped at a par­tic­u­lar time and date - like when some­one do­ing an AMA on Red­dit posts a selfie hold­ing the cur­rent news­pa­per. A way of prov­ing iden­tity in a trust-less en­vi­ron­ment, us­ing a shared “se­cret”.

Warm­ing up to the idea, he fired up IE7 and searched the news web­sites. Noth­ing too no­table jumped out – much about Oba­ma’s up­com­ing in­au­gu­ra­tion, de­bate over who would take the Guan­tanamo pris­on­ers, and var­i­ous other sundry affairs of the day. He was search­ing only the UK news­pa­pers, so the source would match with his di­ver­sion­ary use of British Eng­lish in his post­ings, and when he reached The Times of Lon­don, he found it: the per­fect quote. It was short and sweet, and em­bed­ding it would not only be an effec­tive time stamp, but also a time cap­sule of the cur­rent ex­is­ten­tial en­nui wash­ing over the world, and given the un­known fu­ture, per­haps an epi­taph for the cur­rent fi­nan­cial sys­tem:

The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chan­cel­lor on brink of sec­ond bailout for banks

A gen­tle mid­dle fin­ger to the cur­rent fail­ing sys­tem the project was de­signed to up­end. He could­n’t help but fore­see the mar­ket­ing value of it, ei­ther: they would think some bril­liant hacker came up with this as a re­sponse to the cur­rent cri­sis, even though he had started in earnest two years pri­or, a good year be­fore the fi­nan­cial sys­tem buck­led.

They did­n’t have to know this was a mul­ti­fac­eted pro­ject, decades in the en­vi­sion­ing. They did­n’t have to know most of the ideas and con­cepts were - sev­eral in­vented decades pri­or, in the sev­en­ties and eight­ies. They did­n’t have to know he was sim­ply a vi­sion­ary plumber, who saw the thing holis­ti­cal­ly, and that the small amount of bril­liance he added was in the way the pipes were fit­ted to­gether so that the wa­ter could flow. They did­n’t have to know that he him­self had been wait­ing over a decade for some­one else to do what he saw as sim­ply ob­vi­ous3, and when no­body stepped up, he fi­nally got off his lazy ass and did some­thing about it. No – he would let them be­lieve in the myth. It would be bet­ter that way.

He slid the stick in his dev box and re­com­piled the code with the new mes­sage, then trans­ferred it, with his shak­ing hand, into the USB slot on the Pro­Liant.

Mas­sag­ing his tem­ples, he swiveled away from the work­sta­tion to face the side table. He could­n’t just… do this: it was a mo­ment, and it needed some­thing in­spi­ra­tional. A send off; a vir­tual cham­pagne bot­tle strik­ing the bow.

Sit­ting at an an­gle to the server on the work­bench sat an­other beast al­most as big, but from an­other age: a McIn­tosh NC2300 am­pli­fi­er. He flicked it on, gen­er­at­ing a low buzz as the nee­dles popped and set­tled back on the tiny pegs within their blue square win­dows. While wait­ing for the tubes to warm up, he pulled a ran­dom vinyl record from the stack of a dozen or so lean­ing against it, and re­mov­ing it from the pro­tec­tive sleeve, smiled while ad­mir­ing it. Bruce would make it into the cer­e­monies, after all. Per­fect.

Mount­ing it on the Nakamichi Dragon that sat atop the old amp, he cued it up with his right hand while hold­ing the in­dex fin­ger of his left on the pres­sure switch of the Pro­Liant. When the sounds of the E Street Band blasted their way out of the Klip­sch mon­i­tors, he pushed the but­ton on the Gen­e­sis ma­chine.

Born to Run.


  1. The pur­loined let­ter! As tan­gled_zans points out:

    Think about it!

    What do we know about Gw­ern?

    Near-en­cy­clo­pe­diac knowl­edge of Bit­coin, Tor, and Dark­webs.

    Is heav­ily into Japan­ese cul­ture.

    One of the early bit­coin adopters.

    Has done pro­lific re­search into re­main­ing anony­mous . So far we’ve as­sumed that this was in or­der to de-anonymyse Satoshi, but what if it was to re­main anony­mous him­self?

    But that’s just spec­u­la­tion. Here’s the real proof:

    We know that Gw­ern has mod­elled his in­ter­net per­sona based on L, the anony­mous de­tec­tive from Death Note. In the sto­ry, L’s sole ob­ses­sion was to find out the iden­tity of Ki­ra, the ge­nius se­r­ial killer. HOWEVER: Half-way through the sto­ry, Kira mur­ders L, as­sumes his iden­ti­ty, and con­tin­ues to openly and fer­vently “hunt for Kira” while se­cretly sab­o­tag­ing the efforts of law-en­force­ment who co­op­er­ate with him.

    So if you re­move the su­per­nat­ural crime el­e­ment, Death Note be­comes a story of an in­ter­na­tion­ally wanted man, who hides be­hind the per­sona of the in­ves­ti­ga­tor in charge of find­ing him­self.

    And the more ea­gerly he tries, the less likely it is that he him­self be­comes the sus­pect!

    Does that sound fa­mil­iar?

    The an­swer was al­ways hid­ing in plain sight. Nice try, gw­ern!

    ↩︎
  2. A com­menter on #bitcoin rea­soned:

    Odds are Satoshi is an from an Eng­lish-s­peak­ing coun­try. There are 400 mil­lion peo­ple who live in an Eng­lish-s­peak­ing coun­try. I would guess there’s about a 20% chance Satoshi has ac­cess to the nearly 1 mil­lion bit­coins he mined. If it takes me 5 min­utes to send a mes­sage threat­en­ing to ex­pose Satoshi, then I can send 12 mes­sages per hour. That means my ex­pected hourly re­turn from send­ing black­mail mes­sages to Eng­lish-s­peak­ing peo­ple is = $3.6/hour.

    ↩︎
  3. I dis­agree with Anony­mous here; he re­marked on 2010-06-18 that the in­sight was­n’t that old: “How long have you been work­ing on this de­sign, Satoshi?” “Since 2007. At some point I be­came con­vinced there was a way to do this with­out any trust re­quired at all and could­n’t re­sist to keep think­ing about it. Much more of the work was de­sign­ing than cod­ing. For­tu­nate­ly, so far all the is­sues raised have been things I pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered and planned for.”↩︎