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Blowing the lid off the CryptoNote/Bytecoin scam (with the exception of Monero) - Reformatted for Reddit

Original post by rethink-your-strategy on Bitcointalk.org here
This post has been reformatted to share on Reddit. What once was common knowledge, is now gone. You want a quality history lesson? Share this like wildfire.
August 15, 2014, 08:15:37 AM

Preamble

I'd like to start off by stating categorically that the cryptography presented by CryptoNote is completely, entirely solid. It has been vetted and looked over by fucking clever cryptographers/developers/wizards such as gmaxwell. Monero have had a group of independent mathematicians and cryptographers peer-reviewing the whitepaper (their annotations are here, and one of their reviews is here), and this same group of mathematicians and cryptographers is now reviewing the implementation of the cryptography in the Monero codebase. Many well known Bitcoin developers have already had a cursory look through the code to establish its validity. It is safe to say that, barring more exotic attacks that have to be mitigated over time as they are invented/discovered, and barring a CryptoNote implementation making rash decisions to implement something that reduces the anonymity set, the CryptoNote currencies are all cryptographically unlinkable and untraceable.
Two other things I should mention. I curse a lot when I'm angry (and scams like this make me angry). Second, where used my short date format is day/month/year (smallest to biggest).
If you find this information useful, a little donation would go a long way. Bitcoin address is 1rysLufu4qdVBRDyrf8ZjXy1nM19smTWd.

The Alleged CryptoNote/Bytecoin Story

CryptoNote is a new cryptocurrency protocol. It builds on some of the Bitcoin founding principles, but it adds to them. There are aspects of it that are truly well thought through and, in a sense, quite revolutionary. CryptoNote claim to have started working on their project years ago after Bitcoin's release, and I do not doubt the validity of this claim...clearly there's a lot of work and effort that went into this. The story as Bytecoin and CryptoNote claim it to be is as follows:
They developed the code for the principles expressed in their whitepaper, and in April, 2012, they released Bytecoin. All of the copyright messages in Bytecoin's code are "copyright the CryptoNote Developers", so clearly they are one and the same as the Bytecoin developers. In December 2012, they released their CryptoNote v1 whitepaper. In September 2013, they released their CryptoNote v2 whitepaper. In November 2013, the first piece of the Bytecoin code was first pushed to Github by "amjuarez", with a "Copyright (c) 2013 amjuarez" copyright notice. This was changed to "Copyright (c) 2013 Antonio Juarez" on March 3rd, 2014. By this juncture only the crypto libraries had been pushed up to github. Then, on March 4th, 2014, "amjuarez" pushed the rest of the code up to github, with the README strangely referring to "cybernote", even though the code referred to "Cryptonote". The copyrights all pointed to "the Cryptonote developers", and the "Antonio Juarez" copyright and license file was removed. Within a few days, "DStrange" stumbled across the bytecoin.org website when trying to mine on the bte.minefor.co.in pool (a pool for the-other-Bytecoin, BTE, not the-new-Bytecoin, BCN), and the rest is history as we know it. By this time Bytecoin had had a little over 80% of its total emission mined.

Immediate Red Flags

The first thing that is a red flag in all of this is that nobody, and I mean no-fucking-body, is a known entity. "Antonio Juarez" is not a known entity, "DStrange" is not a known entity, none of the made up names on the Bytecoin website exist (they've since removed their "team" page, see below), none of the made up names on the CryptoNote website exist (Johannes Meier, Maurice Planck, Max Jameson, Brandon Hawking, Catherine Erwin, Albert Werner, Marec Plíškov). If they're pseudonyms, then say so. If they're real names, then who the fuck are they??? Cryptographers, mathematicians, and computer scientists are well known - they have published papers or at least have commented on articles of interest. Many of them have their own github repos and Twitter feeds, and are a presence in the cryptocurrency community.
The other immediate red flag is that nobody, and I mean no-fucking-body, had heard of Bytecoin. Those that had heard of it thought it was the crummy SHA-256 Bitcoin clone that was a flop in the market. Bytecoin's claim that it had existed "on the deep web" for 2 years was not well received, because not a single vendor, user, miner, drug addict, drug seller, porn broker, fake ID card manufacturer, student who bought a fake ID card to get into bars, libertarian, libertard, cryptographer, Tor developer, Freenet developer, i2p developer, pedophile, or anyone else that is a known person - even just known on the Internet - had ever encountered "Bytecoin" on Tor. Ever. Nobody.

Indisputable Facts

Before I start with some conjecture and educated guesswork, I'd like to focus on an indisputable fact that obliterates any trust in both Bytecoin's and CryptoNote's bullshit story. Note, again, that I do not doubt the efficacy of the mathematics and cryptography behind CryptoNote, nor do I think there are backdoors in the code. What I do know for a fact is that the people behind CryptoNote and Bytecoin have actively deceived the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency community, and that makes them untrustworthy now and in the future. If you believe in the fundamentals in CryptoNote, then you need simply use a CryptoNote-derived cryptocurrency that is demonstrably independent of CryptoNote and Bytecoin's influence. Don't worry, I go into this a little later.
So as discussed, there were these two whitepapers that I linked to earlier. Just in case they try remove them, here is the v1 whitepaper and the v2 whitepaper mirrored on Archive.org. This v1/v2 whitepaper thing has been discussed at length on the Bytecoin forum thread, and the PGP signature on the files has been confirmed as being valid. When you open the respective PDFs you'll notice the valid signatures in them:
signature in the v1 whitepaper
signature in the v2 whitepaper
These are valid Adobe signatures, signed on 15/12/2012 and 17/10/2013 respectively. Here's where it gets interesting. When we inspect this file in Adobe Acrobat we get a little more information on the signature
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Notice the bit that says "Signing time is from the clock on the signer's computer"? Now normally you would use a Timestamp Authority (TSA) to validate your system time. There are enough public, free, RFC 3161 compatible TSAs that this is not a difficult thing. CryptoNote chose not do this. But we have no reason to doubt the time on the signature, right guys? crickets
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See these references from the v1 whitepaper footnotes? Those two also appear in the v2 whitepaperth. Neither of those two footnotes refer to anything in the main body of the v1 whitepaper's text, they're non-existent (in the v2 whitepaper they are used in text). The problem, though, is that the Bitcointalk post linked in the footnote is not from early 2012 (proof screenshot is authentic: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=196259.0)
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May 5, 2013. The footnote is referencing a post that did not exist until then. And yet we are to believe that the whitepaper was signed on 12/12/2012! What sort of fucking fools do they take us for?
A little bit of extra digging validates this further. The document properties for both the v1 whitepaper as well as the v2 whitepaper confirms they were made in TeX Live 2013, which did not exist on 12/12/2012. The XMP properties are also quite revealing
XMP properties for the v1 whitepaper
XMP properties for the v2 whitepaper
According to that, the v1 whitepaper PDF was created on 10/04/2014, and the v2 whitepaper was created on 13/03/2014. And yet both of these documents were then modified in the past (when they were signed). Clearly the CryptoNote/Bytecoin developers are so advanced they also have a time machine, right?
Final confirmation that these creation dates are correct are revealed those XMP properties. The properties on both documents confirm that the PDF itself was generated from the LaTeX source using pdfTeX-1.40.14 (the pdf:Producer property). Now pdfTeX is a very old piece of software that isn't updated very often, so the minor version (the .14 part) is important.
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pdfTeX 1.40.14 pushed to source repo on Feb 14, 2014
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This version of pdfTeX was only pushed to the pdfTeX source repository on February 14, 2014, although it was included in a very early version of TeX Live 2013 (version 2013.20130523-1) that was released on May 23, 2013. The earliest mentions on the Internet of this version of pdfTeX are in two Stack Exchange comments that confirm its general availability at the end of May 2013 (here and here).
The conclusion we draw from this is that the CryptoNote developers, as clever as they were, intentionally deceived everyone into believing that the CryptoNote whitepapers were signed in 2012 and 2013, when the reality is that the v2 whitepaper was created in March, 2014, and the v1 whitepaper haphazardly created a month later by stripping bits out of the v2 whitepaper (accidentally leaving dead footnotes in).
Why would they create this fake v2 whitepaper in the first place? Why not just create a v1 whitepaper, or not even version it at all? The answer is simple: they wanted to lend credence and validity to the Bytecoin "2 years on the darkweb" claim so that everyone involved in CryptoNote and Bytecoin could profit from the 2 year fake mine of 82% of Bytecoin. What they didn't expect is the market to say "no thank you" to their premine scam.

And Now for Some Conjecture

As I mentioned earlier, the Bytecoin "team" page disappeared. I know it exists, because "AtomicDoge" referred to it as saying that one of the Bytecoin developers is a professor at Princeton. I called them out on it, and within a week the page had disappeared. Fucking cowards.
That was the event that triggered my desire to dig deeper and uncover the fuckery. As I discovered more and more oddities, fake accounts, trolling, and outright falsehoods, I wondered how deep the rabbit hole went. My starting point was DStrange. This is the account on Bitcointalk that "discovered" Bytecoin accidentally a mere 6 days after the first working iteration of the code was pushed to Github, purely by chance when mining a nearly dead currency on a tiny and virtually unheard of mining pool. He has subsequently appointed himself the representative of Bytecoin, or something similar. The whole thing is so badly scripted it's worse than a Spanish soap opera...I can't tell who Mr. Gonzales, the chief surgeon, is going to fuck next.
At the same time as DStrange made his "fuck me accidental discovery", another Bitcointalk account flared up to also "accidentally discover this weird thing that has randomly been discovered": Rias. What's interesting about both the "Rias" and "DStrange" accounts are their late 2013 creation date (October 31, 2013, and December 23, 2013, respectively), and yet they lay dormant until suddenly, out of the blue, on January 20th/21st they started posting. If you look at their early posts side by side you can even see the clustering: Rias, DStrange.
At any rate, the DStrange account "discovering" Bytecoin is beyond hilarious, especially with the Rias account chiming in to make the discovery seem natural. Knowing what we unmistakably do about the fake CryptoNote PDF dates lets us see this in a whole new light.
Of course, as has been pointed out before, the Bytecoin website did not exist in its "discovered" form until sometime between November 13, 2013 (when it was last captured as this random picture of a college girl) and February 25, 2014 (when it suddenly had the website on it as "discovered"). This can be confirmed by looking at the captures on Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://bytecoin.org
The CryptoNote website, too, did not exist in its current form until after October 20, 2013, at which time it was still the home of an encrypted message project by Alain Meier, a founding member of the Stanford Bitcoin Group and co-founder of BlockScore. This, too, can be confirmed on Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://cryptonote.org
~It's hard to ascertain whether Alain had anything to do with CryptoNote or Bytecoin. It's certainly conceivable that the whitepaper was put together by him and other members of the Stanford Bitcoin Group, and the timeline fits, given that the group only formed around March 2013. More info on the people in the group can be found on their site, and determining if they played a role is something you can do in your own time.~
Update: Alain Meier posted in this thread, and followed it up with a Tweet, confirming that he has nothing to do with CryptoNote and all the related...stuff.

Batshit Insane

The Bytecoin guys revel in creating and using sockpuppet accounts. Remember that conversation where "Rias" asked who would put v1 on a whitepaper with no v2 out, and AlexGR said "a forward looking individual"? The conversation took place on May 30, and was repeated verbatim by shill accounts on Reddit on August 4 (also, screenshot in case they take it down).
Those two obvious sockpuppet/shill accounts also take delight in bashing Monero in the Monero sub-reddit (here are snippets from WhiteDynomite and cheri0). Literally the only thing these sockpuppets do, day in and day out, is make the Bytecoin sub-reddit look like it's trafficked, and spew angry bullshit all over the Monero sub-reddit. Fucking batshit insane - who the fuck has time for that? Clearly they're pissy that nobody has fallen for their scam. Oh, and did I mention that all of these sockpuppets have a late January/early February creation date? Because that's not fucking obvious at all.
And let's not forget that most recently the sockpuppets claimed that multi-sig is "a new revolutionary technology, it was discovered a short time ago and Bytecoin already implemented it". What the actual fuck. If you think that's bad, you're missing out on the best part of all: the Bytecoin shills claim that Bytecoin is actually Satoshi Nakamoto's work. I'm not fucking kidding you. For your viewing pleasure...I present to you...the Bytecoin Batshit Insane Circus:
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https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=512747.msg8354977#msg8354977
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Seriously. Not only is this insulting as fuck to Satoshi Nakamoto, but it's insulting as fuck to our intelligence. And yet the fun doesn't stop there, folks! I present to you...the centerpiece of this Bytecoin Batshit Insane Circus exhibit...
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Of course! How could we have missed it! The clues were there all along! The CryptoNote/Bytecoin developers are actually aliens! Fuck me on a pogostick, this is the sort of stuff that results in people getting committed to the loony bin.
One last thing: without doing too much language analysis (which is mostly supposition and bullshit), it's easy to see common grammar and spelling fuck ups. My personal favorite is the "Is it true?" question. You can see it in the Bytecoin thread asking if it's Satoshi's second project, in the Monero thread asking if the Monero devs use a botnet to fake demand, and in the Dashcoin thread confirming the donation address (for a coin whose only claim is that they copy Bytecoin perfectly, what the fuck do they need donations for??).

Layer After Layer

One of the things that happened soon after the Bytecoin "big reveal" was a string of forks popping up. The first was Bitmonero on April 18. Fantomcoin was launched May 6. Quazarcoin was launched May 8. HoneyPenny was announced on April 21, although only launched as Boolberry on May 17. duckNote was launched on May 30. MonetaVerde as launched June 17.
Now for some reason unbeknownst to anyone with who isn't a retarded fuckface, the Bytecoin code was pushed up to SourceForge on 08/04/2014 (the "Registered" date is at the bottom of the page). I have no idea why they did this, maybe it's to try and lend credence to their bullshit story (oh hey, look how old Bytecoin is, it's even on Sourceforge!)
Coincidentally, and completely unrelated (hurr durr), Quazarcoin, Fantomcoin, and Monetaverde are all also on Sourceforge. This gives us a frame of reference and a common link between them - it's quite clear that at least these three are run by the same team as CryptoNote. There is further anecdotal evidence that can be gathered by looking at the shill posts in the threads (especially the way the Moneteverda shills praise merge mining, in a way that is nearly fucking indistinguishable from the Bytecoin praise for multi-sig technology).
QuazarCoin is a special case and deserves a little attention. Let's start with OracionSeis, who launched it. He's well known on Bitcointalk for selling in-game currencies. In that same thread you'll notice this gem right at the end from Fullbuster: "Hey,OracionSeis is no longer under my use so please https://bitcointa.lk/threads/selling-most-of-the-game-currencies.301540/#post-5996983 come into this thread! thank you !" Click through to his new link and Fullbuster clarifies: "Hello, I may look new around here but i've sold my first account and created new one and i have an intention to keep the same services running as my first account did." So now that we know that OracionSeis is a fucking bought account, we can look at his actions a little more critically.
On May 7, just when Monero was being taken back by the community (see below), OracionSeis out of the blue decided to take it overelaunch it himself. This included a now-defunct website at monero.co.in, and a since-abandoned Github. The community pushed back hard, true to form, with hard-hitting statements such as "To reiterate, this is not the original devs, and thus not a relaunch. OP, fuck you for trying this. This should warrant a ban." A man after my own heart. OracionSeis caved and decided to rename it to...QuazarCoin, which launched on May 8. To recap: bought account, launched by trying to "relaunch" Monero, got fucked up, renamed it to QuazarCoin. Clearly and undeniably goes in our pile of fuckface coins.
The other three are a little more interesting. Let's start with ~fuckNote~duckNote. It's hard to say if duckNote is a CryptoNote/Bytecoin project. The addition of the HTML based wallet is a one-trick pony, a common thread among most of the CryptoNote/Bytecoin controlled coins, but that could also be the result of a not-entirely-retarded developer. Given the shill posts in the duckNote thread I'm going to flag it as possibly-controlled-by-the-fuckface-brigade.
And now we come to ~HoneyPenny~ ~MoneyPenny~ ~HoneyBerry~ ~Boolean~ Boolberry. This is an interesting one. This was "pre-announced" on April 21, although it was only released with the genesis block on May 17. This puts it fourth in line, after Fantomcoin and Quazarcoin, although fucktarded proponents of the shittily-named currency insist that it was launched on April 21 because of a pre-announcement. Fucking rejects from the Pool of Stupidity, some of them. At any rate, "cryptozoidberg" is the prolific coder that churned out a Keccak-derived PoW (Wild Keccak) in a month, and then proceeded to add completely fucking retarded features like address aliasing that requires you to mine a block to get an address (lulz) and will never cause any issues when "google" or "obama" or "zuckerberg" want their alias back. Namecoin gets around this by forcing you to renew every ~200 - 250 days, and besides, nobody is making payments to microsoft.bit. This aliasing system is another atypical one-trick-pony that the CryptoNote developers push out and claim is monumental and historical and amazing.
There's also the matter of cryptozoidberg's nickname. In the Bytecoin code there's the BYTECOIN_NETWORK identifiert, which according to the comment is "Bender's nightmare" (hurr durr, such funny, 11100111110001011011001210110110 has a 2 in it). Now this may be a little bit of conjecture, yo, but the same comment appears twice in the "epee" contributed library, once in the levin signature, and again in the portable storage signature. The contexts are so disconnected and different that it would be a fucking stretch to imagine that the same person did not write both of these. We can also rule out this being a Bytecoin-specific change, as the "Bender's nightmare" comments exist in the original epee library on githubw (which is completely unused anywhere on the planet except in Bytecoin, most unusual for a library that has any usefulness, and was first committed to github on February 9, 2014).
We know from the copyright that Andrey N. Sabelnikov is the epee author, and we can say with reasonable certainty that he was involved in Bytecoin's creation and is the dev behind Boolberry. Sabelnikov is quite famous - he wrote the Kelihos botnet code and worked at two Russian security firms, Microsoft took him to court for his involvement (accusing him of operating the botnet as well), and then settled with him out of court on the basis of him not running the botnet but just having written the code. Kelihos is a botnet that pumped out online pharmacy spam (you know the fucking annoying "Y-ou Ne3D Vi-4Gra!?" emails? those.) so it's good to see he transitioned from that to a cryptocurrency scam. Regardless of BBR's claim to have "fixed" CryptoNote's privacy (and the fake fight on Bitcointalk between the "Bytecoin devs" and cryptozoidberg), it's clear that the link between them is not transparent. BBR is either the brainchild of a spam botnet author that worked on Bytecoin, or it's the CryptoNote developers trying to have one currency distanced from the rest so that they have a claim for legitimacy. I think it's the second one, and don't want to enter into a fucking debate about it. Make up your own mind.
Which brings us to the oddest story of the bunch: Bitmonero. It's pretty clear, given its early launch date and how unfamiliar anyone was with creating a genesis block or working in completely undocumented code, that thankful_for_today is/was part of the CryptoNote developers. He made a fatal error, though: he thought (just like all the other cryptocurrencies) that being "the dev" made him infallible. Ya know what happened? He tried to force his ideas, the community politely said "fuck you", and Bitmonero was forked into Monero, which is leading the pack of CryptoNote-based coins today. Let me be perfectly fucking clear: it doesn't matter that the Bytecoin/CryptoNote developers know their code and can push stuff out, and it doesn't matter that Sabelnikov can shovel bullshit features into his poorly named cryptocurrency, and it doesn't matter that Monetaverde is "green" and has "merged mining". Nobody working behind these cryptocurrencies is known in the cryptocurrency community, and that alone should be a big fucking red flag. Monero is streets ahead, partly because of the way they're developing the currency, but mostly because the "core devs" or whatever they're called are made up of reasonably well-known people. That there are a bunch of them (6 or 7?) plus a bunch of other people contributing code means that they're sanity checking each other.
And, as we saw, this has fucking infuriated the Bytecoin/CryptoNote developers. They're so angry they waste hours and hours with their Reddit accounts trawling the Monero sub-reddit, for what? Nobody has fallen for their scam, and after my revelation today nobody fucking will. Transparency wins, everything else is bullshit.
As pointed out by canonsburg, when the Bytecoin/CryptoNote people realised they'd lost the fucking game, they took a "scorched earth" approach. If they couldn't have the leading CryptoNote coin...they'd fucking destroy the rest by creating a shit-storm of CryptoNote coins. Not only did they setup a thread with "A complete forking guide to create your own CryptoNote currency", but they even have a dedicated website with a fuckton of JavaScript. Unfortunately this plan hasn't worked for them, because they forgot that nobody gives a fuck, and everyone is going to carry on forking Bitcoin-based coins because of the massive infrastructure and code etc. that works with Bitcoin-based coins.
There are a bunch of other useless CryptoNote coins, by the way: Aeon, Dashcoin, Infinium-8, OneEvilCoin. We saw earlier that Dashcoin is probably another CryptoNote developer driven coin. However, this entire group is not really important enough, nor do they have enough potential, for me to give a single fuck, so make up your own mind. New CryptoNote coins that pop up should be regarded with the utmost caution, given the bullshit capabilities that we've already seen.

All Tied