No, Sean Spicer Didn’t Make Some Secret Bitcoin Transaction
There’s a story going around that Sean Spicer didn’t tweet out his password, that it was some Bitcoin transaction and he wanted people to know it was him. I’m here to examine the claims of the post and try to understand exactly what happened.
Sean Spicer made this tweet at 8:42am on January 26, 2017. Whatever “n9y25ah7” means, it was quickly deleted.
Laurelai Bailey claims that this is actually an “identity confirmation code” for a Bitcoin transaction. I can tell you as a Bitcoin developer, there is no such thing as an “identity confirmation code” for a Bitcoin transaction. The closest thing we have is a transaction id which is a 32-byte identifier (specifically a double-SHA256 of the contents) of a transaction. As this string is very short (only 8 bytes), it can’t possibly be a transaction id.
What Bailey found was this page on bitsig.io.
What BitSig Does
There’s some confusion by Bailey about exactly what BitSig does. From their How It Works page:
Bitsig utilizes the Bitcoin blockchain to provide proof of existence and timestamping for text and documents without destroying bitcoin or adding unnecessary data to the blockchain. By sending a small amount of bitcoin to the generated address, you prove that your text or document existed at that time. If you choose to sign your text or document with PGP or other authentication methods, you can even prove who created it.
The purpose of Bitsig is simply to record some data and prove that such data existed at a certain point in time. They do this a little differently than proofofexistence.com by utilizing brain wallets. Essentially, they take a string, do some deterministic process on it to generate a private key. That private key then can generate a Bitcoin address which anyone can send money to. The company sweeps the money out of the address afterward.
Notice the timestamp of the Bitsig:
This happened several hours after the Spicer tweet. This means someone saw the tweet and recorded the string into the Bitcoin blockchain proving that this text existed. Now, if this timestamp were before the Spicer tweet, that would be interesting, but given that the text was already public, virtually anyone could have added this to the blockchain for about $1.
The actual transaction, by the way, got into the Bitcoin blockchain soon afterward. The funds were swept up by someone a few days later. This isn’t surprising since the private key can be determined from the brain wallet string, which is Sean Spicer’s tweet.
Bailey seems to have confused a few things about Bitcoin transactions and while I applaud the initiative taken to uncover this particular gem, unfortunately, this find doesn’t mean anything. Bailey’s analysis is akin to finding that someone played last night’s winning lottery numbers today and extracting meaning from it. It doesn’t mean anything, simply that someone wanted to record the string, that’s all.
Sean Spicer’s tweet was not some magical “identity confirmation code” for a Bitcoin transaction. In fact, it’s unlikely Sean Spicer had anything to do with the transaction at all. The facts of the case suggest that someone saw the tweet and thought it would be a good idea to record the tweet in the Bitcoin blockchain and did so in case there was doubt that the Tweet ever happened.
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