Satoshi Nakamoto may have relied on a Russian proxy as early as January 2009, when Bitcoin v0.1.0 was first released.
Telltale signs appear in the file ‘irc.cpp’ on line 212, though this seems to be obfuscated with a simple cipher.
Bitcoin v0.1.0 irc.cpp File Released January 9 2020. Source: Satoshi Nakamoto Institute.
This cipher seems to work by removing all the zeros and then converting the numbers from hexadecimal notation to decimal. That gives you what looks like an IP address: 87.251.146. At the time the proxy was provided by Anders Telecom, it had apparently been defunct since 2016.
Experts disagree on the validity of such interpretation. Dr. Javier Estrella, CTO of GeoDB told Cointelegraph:
“The whole story reminds me a little ‘you can make statistics say anything you want’. For me it’s a simple reminder about the expected format of some variable in order to know how to process it later and take it at random.”
However, Alexander Chepurnoy, co-founder of Ergo blockchain platform disagrees, he believes this decoding method to be quite intuitive.
Hiding from Five Eyes in Russia?
Proxies are similar to VPNs, they help obfuscate the location of one’s computer. The place in the code where this comment line is placed deals with the connection to the Internet Relay Chat, or IRC. Satoshi himself discusses it in a few posts on Bitcointalk:
Satoshi Post on Bitcointalk Discussing IRC. Source: Bitcointalk.
The surrounding context of this comment line also supports the interpretation of it being an encrypted proxy.
Chepurnoy believes that if indeed Satoshi was from one of the countries that formed The Five Eyes, or FVEY, intelligence community (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States), it would make perfect sense for him to use a Russian proxy. Since it would be unlikely that the FVEY intelligence agencies would have a backdoor to a Russian service.
Sergey in Vietnam
Searching for this IP address yields results in Iran; however, due to the IPv4 address exhaustion, the global IP addresses have been reassigned since 2009. We did find a user named Sergey, posting reviews of hotels in Vietnam in December 2008 and January 2009, logging into the site with the same proxy as Satoshi.
December 1, 2008 Post by User ‘Sergey” Who Logged in With Proxy: 87.251.146. Source: Otzyv.ru.
January 24, 2008 Post by User ‘Sergey” Who Logged in With Proxy: 87.251.146. Source: Otzyv.ru.
It should be noted that Vietnam is a destination for Russian developers looking to escape harsh Russian winters.
Was Satoshi Russian?
The fact that Satoshi might have been using a Russian proxy does not necessarily imply that he or any members of the alleged team had Russian ties. Although there is evidence that the Russian-speaking individuals were involved in the Bitcoin (BTC) community almost from the beginning. In fact, the Russain language forum was the first non-English section on Bitcointalk.
Joseph Vaughn Perling, known on the forum as NewLibertyStandard, was active in the Russian language chats. He does not seem to have any Russian roots and his Russian is imperfect, yet generally fluent. He registered on the forum on January 19, 2020 and was user number 26.
In a post from July 28, 2010, he suggests the Russian spelling of Bitcoin should not just be a Russified version of the name, but should be a literal translation of Bit-Coin. His suggestion has not gained much traction.
A Russian Language Post by NewLibertyStandard From July 28 2010. Source: Bitcointalk.
However, Chepurnoy, applying the same logic as before, says it is unlikely that if Satoshi were Russian that he would use a Russian proxy, more likely he would be using a Western proxy in order to hide from the Russian intelligence services. He suggests alternative explanations:
“It’s possible that this proxy was being used in the office where Satoshi worked at the time or that someone of Russian origin had shared it with him.”
Further research may help uncover more clues about the early history of Bitcoin and Satoshi’s identity.