The father of Bitcoin was able to not only code an exceptionally well built system, but also found clever ways to ensure his work was validated and not misunderstood for some sort of a scheme by others. For example, Nakamoto left a message inside this first manually altered code. When the first block of Bitcoin was mined, it read ‘The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.’ This quote is the headline for The Times newspaper which was published on January 3rd, 2009. The clever use of this simple message is overlooked by many, and it dictates that the first block was mined no earlier than January 3rd, 2009. This is extremely important because the whole Bitcoin system is designed to run and validate itself from the previously mined blocks, so giving a valid timestamp which can be authenticated by a simple headline title to the first block was genius. Afterwards, all blocks used the previous block for reference.
Two members of the Silk Road Task Force—a multi-agency federal task force that carried out the U.S. investigation of Silk Road—seized bitcoins for their own use in the course of the investigation. DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV, who attempted to extort Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht ("Dread Pirate Roberts"), pleaded guilty to money laundering, obstruction of justice, and extortion under color of official right, and was sentenced to 6.5 years in federal prison. U.S. Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges pleaded guilty to crimes relating to his diversion of $800,000 worth of bitcoins to his personal account during the investigation, and also separately pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with another cryptocurrency theft; he was sentenced to nearly eight years in federal prison.
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Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin was invented by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009. Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. Research produced by the University of Cambridge estimates that in 2017, there were 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin.