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The cypherpunks constitute an informal group of people interested in privacy and cryptography who originally communicated through the cypherpunks mailing list. The aim of the group was to achieve privacy and security through proactive use of cryptography. Events such as the GURPS Cyberpunk raid lent weight to the idea that private individuals needed to take steps themselves to protect their privacy. In its heyday, the list discussed the public policy issues related to cryptography, as well as more practical nuts-and-bolts mathematical, computational, technological, and cryptographic matters themselves.

A coderpunks list, open by invitation only, existed for a time. Coderpunks took up more technical matters and had less discussion of public policy implications.

The term cypherpunk, derived from cipher and punk, was coined by Jude Milhon as a pun to describe cyberpunks who used cryptography.[1] In November 2006, the word was proposed for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary[2]. The Cypherpunks included several notable computer industry figures, for example Ian Goldberg, Bram Cohen and Nikita Borisov.

It should be noted that "cypherpunk" is not at all synonymous with cyberpunk.

Contents

History

The mailing list's best days have been behind it for some time, having peaked around 1997. A number of current systems in use trace their roots to this time, including Pretty Good Privacy, /dev/random in the Linux kernel (the actual code has been completely reimplemented several times since then) and today's anonymous remailers.

The cypherpunk mailing list was originally hosted on toad.com, but after a falling out with the sysop over moderation, the list was migrated to several cross-linked mail-servers in what was called the "distributed mailing list".[3][4] Toad.com continued to run with the existing subscriber list, those that didn't unsubscribe, and was mirrored on the new distributed mailing list, but messages from the distributed list didn't appear on toad.com.[5] As the list faded in popularity, so too did it fade in the number of cross-linked subscription nodes. As of 2007, the only remaining node is at al-qaeda.net, and list traffic is at best intermittent and even then, sparse.[citation needed]

For a time, the cypherpunks mailing list was a popular tool with mailbombers[6], who would subscribe a victim to the mailing list. This precipitated the mailing list sysop(s) to institute a reply to subscribe system. It is important to note that approximately two hundred messages a day was typical for the mailing list, divided between personal arguments and attacks, political discussion, technical discussion, and early spam[7][8].

The list entertained novel social ideas enabled by such increasingly known cryptographic techniques as anonymity and private communication. One example is Bell's Assassination Politics, as an inevitable consequence of anonymous cash. Reputation-based systems (and their weaknesses) were also popular, in part because they provide a distributed anarchic alternative to central authenticators.

Those wishing to understand the context of the list might refer to the history of cryptography; in the early 90s, the US government considered crypto software a "munition" for export purposes, which hampered commercial deployment with no gain in "national security", as knowledge and skill was not limited to US citizens. (PGP source code was published as a paper book to bypass these regulations and demonstrate their futility.) The US government had tried to subvert cryptography (eg by requiring SkipJack and key-escrow). It was also not widely known among the lay population that all communications were logged by government agencies (cf NSA and ATT scandal) though this was taken as an obvious axiom by listmembers. See Crypto Anarchist

Other uses

Cypherpunk, cypherpunks or cpunks are also occasionally used as a username and password on websites which require registration, especially if the user does not intend to return or does not wish to reveal information about himself. The account is left for later users. As of 2007, username "cypherpunks01" with password "cypherpunks01" seems to be one of the few of these "public use accounts" which seems to be widely available.[citation needed]

Citations

Some well known cypherpunks

See also

External links








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