Dr. Craig Wright is back. And this time, he is out to destroy the societally menacing anonymous coins.
The Australian computer scientist and alleged creator of Bitcoin told CNBC Africa’s Ran Neuner that he knows how to kill Zcash and Monero. Dr. Wright said that he was going to expose these anonymous coins sometime this year, adding:
“If you have a privacy coin, I will show you that it is basically as private as running through Times Square with your pants around your ankles.”
If what Dr. Wright is saying is correct, then it is a piece of troubling news for discerning dark web drug traders and pseudonymous hackers. They reportedly prefer a Monero over a Bitcoin because Monero promises to offer better privacy protections. It is designed to mix up payments so that anyone investigating Monero’s blockchain can’t link transactions to its source. On the other hand, Bitcoin’s blockchain is open, where researchers can trace transactions back to the original sender/recipient. All they would need is an address in the chain linked to a user’s true identity.
But it doesn’t precisely make Dr. Wright a genius, given he used a lot of I’s in his statements. The respected scholar tends to forget that researchers before him had studied Monero for its potential flaws. Take this Wired report for instance. It discusses the findings of a team of researchers from Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, Boston University, MIT, and the University of Illinois. Per them, Monero’s mixing has a flaw. It makes it possible for investigators to extract individual transactions.
According to researchers, Monero’s transactions were not so private until February 2017, when the project went through a privacy protection upgrade dubbed as Ring Confidential Transactions. But before that, the Monero blockchain had hosted roughly 200,000 transactions which remain traceable to this date.
There is also another defect – not found by Dr. Wright – that Monero developers are attempting to solve. As explained above, Monero mixes transactions at the time of transmission to hide their source.
Remember the Battle of Seven Potters? In the book and movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Order of Phoenix manages to escort the real Harry Potter by transforming six of the order members into his lookalikes. Monero uses similar decoys known as “mixins” to cover tracks of the original Monero coins. (Yes, I am a Potter-head.)
So, the crack has to do with Monero’s optional privacy feature. For instance, in its first year, many users opted out of Monero privacy and transacted coins openly. The trouble lies in the fact that an already identified Monero token can be easily pulled out of the mixins by the Death Eaters, otherwise known as regulators. That leads to the same Bitcoin problem: one identified transaction revealing the identity of the following transactions. Like the cowardice of Mundungus Fletcher, who was one of the Potter decoys, exposed the rest of the Order to danger. (Yes, I am.)
It is too early to say Dr. Craig Wright was taking his cues from the study mentioned above. But he sounds like a person who is projecting a technology’s potential flaw as a doomsday button. It is as if Dr. Wright wants the projects to fail at any cost, never realizing that a flaw prompts developers to fix the problem, not shut down the entire operation.
And then, there is a self-righteous brag. In one of the tweets, Dr. Wright said he was going to help the criminal enforcement agencies how to stop an anonymous coin. They are the same agencies who would waste no time in arresting Dr. Wright for claiming that he is the creator of bitcoin, a digital currency that reportedly facilitated money laundering and drug trafficking in the last decade.
It is not important whether you didn’t commit a murder. But if you openly proclaim that you did, then you belong in jail anyway.
The situation explains why Dr. Wright is cozying up with the Feds, luring them into a deal that could potentially scale up their crackdowns against digital currencies. But dear feds, beware! What you might get is a recycled study in the name of technological breakthrough. For more information, just go through this tweet:
Yes, Dr. Craig Wright can destroy anonymous coins. In these times, anything can happen over a tweet.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article is of the author and author’s only.]