Negative PR Techniques At Work: An Attack on CryptoNote

By James Bolivar     September 28, 2014

It is amazing that people pay so much attention to gossips while they have so many opportunities for growth and self-improvement. One would think, indeed, what is so interesting about Barbra Streisand’s country house? Or who is Lady Gaga secretly dating with? Or who is a disguised gay among Hollywood stars?

 Anthropologists regard gossips as a kind of glue for the society. That is, society does not fall apart because people gather and pick each other to pieces on a regular basis. Although anthropologists do agree that common religion and common financial system play some part in keeping the integrity of said society as well.

In this article, I would like to cover another “intriguing sensation”, which has something to do with both gossips and finances (without religion). I am referring to the thread dated August 15, 2014, belonging to an exposer and whistle-blower in the cryptocurrencies’ world, who is well known in narrow circles. I must admit that this gentleman is very busy, as it is necessary to contend for truth in the cryptocurrencies’ world every day, and there are not so many enthusiasts to do it.

Said investigation was covering the date of appearance of the CryptoNote technology. The investigation drew a lot of attention at the time, but was quite forgotten by August 26. What can be done? Everything is happening fast in the cryptocurrencies’ world.

The birthdate of CryptoNote is July 4, 2012. It seems that the Independence Day was selected deliberately. I presume they thought that launching on such date would add some pathos to the technology. Anyway, let us leave the marketing details alone.

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The investigator took it into his head to prove that the technology was created substantially later. The basis for his proof was the following: whitepapers (of which there are two versions, v1 and v2) published on the CryptoNote website were of later date. The arguments were significant. To begin with, the author found links to the thread, which was started on May 5th, 2013, inside the whitepapers. It was the first hint. Then more sophisticated arguments followed. The documents’ properties stated that they were created using TeX Live 2013. Another hint! And in the end the XMP properties tipped off that v1 was created in April, 2014, and v2 in March, 2014. The last statement is very convincing, but quite strange. Why was v1 created later than v2? Excuse me, but had Grand Cherokee preceded Cherokee? I do not think so.

Warmed up by this success, the author continued his investigation. With such a strong core resting on three legs like a milking stool author starts building up the periphery. It is not so solid, but the author has already made his point. He divided all currencies based on CryptoNote technology into two groups. The first one included Monero, and the second one included Bytecoin and the rest (Quazarcoin, Fantomcoin, Monetaverde, Boolberry, etc…). The first group was named “the Honest”, and the second — “not so Honest” by the author, who produced a number of arguments regarding mostly the fact that some of the second group currencies use NameCheap for registration of the domain name, and some other currencies have their source code uploaded to Sourceforge. So, author comes very softly to the idea that Monero is the real thing.

However, forum is quite different from tabloids, and such strong announcements could not but draw comments, of which there happened to be 20 pages. The forum frequent visitors are very curious people who like to check everything on their own. Enthusiasts found the whitepapers on the Bytecoin website. Moreover, they found an old CryptoNote site in Tor. Whitepapers on both sites were identical, but they were not the same as whitepapers on the CryptoNote website. The public key of the author of both papers — Nicolas van Saberhagen — was compatible with papers discovered on Bytecoin website and CryptoNote Tor site, but was not compatible with CryptoNote website papers. So it became clear that due to some reason the whitepapers investigated by the author are different than those from other sources.

The whitepapers on the CryptoNote website were very much like the original ones; up to public key of Nicolas van Saberhagen and internal PDF signature. But there were minor differences…

  1. Whitepaper v1 (dated December 12, 2012) had no link to the thread started in May, 2013. Only Whitepaper v2 (dated October 17, 2013) had such link. Therefore, the date contradiction is out of question.
  2. Both original copies were made using pdfTex-1.40.13 (released in April, 2012).
  3. XMP properties state that whitepaper v1 was made on December 12, 2012, and whitepaper v2 on October 17, 2013. These dates correspond with the ones stated in whitepapers themselves.

Moreover, the originals had special watermarks, which were absent in the altered copies.

I would like to quote another viewpoint of bitcointalk community: “The whitepaper published on CryptoNote’s website may be a forgery. There is no PGP watermark and the author’s PGP public key can’t be used to validate the whitepaper. Someone has duplicated the genuine whitepaper line by line for them to look the same – but failed at capturing some of its hidden elements.” The conclusion showed that the topic starter’s reasoning was based on the more than likely forged documents. Therefore, I would rather think that this story ends here.

Nevertheless, there are so many questions worth solving in this world. For instance, who uploaded the forgeries to the CryptoNote site and how he or she managed to do it? Or the most intriguing: “What was the goal of the hackers in the first place?” No matter what the answers might be, it is the topic of another article.