The answer to this question is long and any shortening doesn't do the question justice.
This is an edited version of the excellent investigation of the bytecoin scam performed by user "rethink-your-strategy" on the bitcointalk forums written August 15, 2014. It is the best available account of the bytecoin scam, and covers the following areas from the original question:
It has been edited due to the (entertaining) vulgarity of the original report and to fit in the 30k character limit of answers.
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--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 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--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.
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:
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
See these references from the v1 whitepaper footnotes? Those two also appear in the v2 whitepaper. 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.
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 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.
pdfTeX 1.40.14 pushed to source repo on Feb 14, 2014
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. cowards.
That was the event that triggered my desire to dig deeper and uncover the scam. 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.
At the same time as DStrange made his "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.
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. 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 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". 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 kidding you. For your viewing pleasure...I present to you...the Bytecoin Batshit Insane Circus:
Seriously. Not only is this insulting to Satoshi Nakamoto, but it's insulting 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...
Of course! How could we have missed it! The clues were there all along! The CryptoNote/Bytecoin developers are actually aliens!
One last thing: without doing too much language analysis (which is mostly supposition and bullshit), it's easy to see common grammar and spelling errors. 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.