Will bitcoin's creator be unmasked for $12,000?

The anonymous poster wants 25 bitcoins, about $12,000, for the information

The latest claim of knowledge of the true identity of bitcoin's creator is being viewed with suspicion.

The virtual currency system, which has seen growing adoption by merchants, was developed by someone using the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto."

The developer, who left few digital trails, is still believed to be unknown. Newsweek claimed in a March 6 cover story that the revered programmer was Dorian Nakamoto, a Japanese-American man with a technology background.

Dorian Nakamoto fiercely denied the story, arguing that the Newsweek reporter misunderstood a brief conversation they had on the doorstep of his California home.

On Monday, someone posted a note on Pastebin, stating that documents revealing Satoshi's real identity will be released in exchange for 25 bitcoins. So far, the bitcoin address supplied for donations is far shy of its goal.

"And no, this is not a scam, you can see the below screenshots for proof of inbox ownership and a little teaser," the anonymous person claimed. The URLs for the screenshots were not working at one point Monday evening.

Satoshi also once had an account on the P2P Foundation's forum. That mostly inactive account featured a new post on Monday from someone writing that Satoshi was in danger.

The post alleged that Nakamoto had been "doxed," the term for publicly releasing identifying information about someone. It alleges that Nakamoto made an error in configuring the privacy software Tor when he used an email account in 2010.

"You are not safe," the post read. "You need to get out of where you are as soon as possible before these people harm you. Thank you for inventing Bitcoin."

Nakamoto withdrew from the bitcoin community around 2010, saying he had moved onto other projects. His account at the P2P Foundation was inactive for several years until there was a short post in March.

It simply said "I am not Dorian Nakamoto," another denial of the Newsweek story, although it was widely believed that the P2P Foundation account had fallen under someone else's control.

Access to Satoshi's P2P Foundation account might have been achieved through a compromise of an email address he once used, "satoshin@gmx.com."

Michael Marquardt, an administrator on the Bitcointalk forum who goes by the nickname "theymos," wrote that he received an email from that address on Monday, but he was dubious as to who now controlled it.

The email read: "Michael, send me some coins before I hitman you."

The contents of the email "make me almost certain that the email account as compromised. The email was not spoofed in any way," Marquardt wrote.

"It seems very likely that either Satoshi's email account in particular or gmx.com in general was compromised, and the email account is now under the control of someone else," Marquardt continued.

"Perhaps satoshin@gmx.com expired and then someone else registered it," he added.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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