A secret code hidden in a painting which accessed a virtual wallet containing $50,000 worth of Bitcoin has been solved after almost three years.
On Thursday morning (February 1), the Bitcoin wallet known as 1FLAMEN6 and belonging to @coin_artist, was drained of its five bitcoins, worth nearly $50,000 at the time the puzzle was solved.
The artwork, by Rob Myers and @coin_artist, was first published online in April 2015 and had been left unsolved all this time.
— YT▷ (@coin_artist) April 3, 2015
Technology website Motherboard reported it was a 30-year-old programmer who had claimed the funds after searching online crypto-currency puzzles.
Motherboard added the programmer claims to live in a country where it is unsafe to own Bitcoin and wants to remain anonymous.
Speaking in an interview, @coin_artist said she didn’t think the puzzle would take so long to solve.
People had largely given up prior to the bull run. I think Bitcoin’s price rejuvenated interest in 2017.
The puzzle-solver said he ‘shared screenshots of his conversations with other puzzle players, and to prove that he was in control of the coins’, and ‘signed a message to the wallet address’ using the phrase which was placed before the start of the Bitcoin wallet private key coded into the painting.
That phrase? It was ‘B34u7y, truth, and rarity’.
Brilliant, elegant, and logical. I'm kicking myself for getting so close – as I'm sure a lot of people are – but this is the sweetest ending to the mystery I could have asked for. Well done, @coin_artist, @robmyers and Isaac. That's how you make a puzzle. https://t.co/t0fVx5pHHq
— Ben (@cybourgeoisie) February 3, 2018
According to @coin_artist, the phrase is a reference to William Shakespeare’s famous poem, ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’.
The poem is said to be a mystery and has been the subject of speculation about who Shakespeare was referring to when he spoke of the Phoenix and the Turtle – and what features on @coin_artist’s painting? A turtledove and phoenix.
The artist said:
[Shakespeare’s poem] was important to me because events flipped my life upside down and I created this piece at rock bottom.
The painting was also created during the toughest part of the bear market and those original bitcoins I loaded into that address were half of everything I had to my name. It was essentially a prayer that things would get better.
The puzzle encoded a string of binary in the rows of flames painted around the four edges of the picture.
Both the colour and shape of each flame determined a four-character chunk of the binary series.
Further code was represented by six ribbons of different lengths, which featured at the bottom-right of the painting.
Peter Todd, a cryptography consultant, told the BBC:
It wasn’t surprising that it had taken so long for someone to solve the painting’s code.
Puzzles like that one aren’t things you can just throw computing power at – they’re genuine brain puzzles.
Yep, I’m still none-the-wiser on this one!