THE CYPHERNOMICON: Cypherpunks FAQ and More, Version 0.666,
1994-09-10, Copyright Timothy C. May. All rights reserved.
See the detailed disclaimer. Use short sections under "fair
use" provisions, with appropriate credit, but don't put your
name on my words.
- The Cypherpunks have existed since September, 1992. In that
time, a vast amount has been written on cryptography, key
escrow, Clipper, the Net, the Information Superhighway, cyber
terrorists, and crypto anarchy. We have found ourselves (or
_placed_ ourselves) at the center of the storm.
- This FAQ may help to fill in some gaps about what we're
about, what motivates us, and where we're going. And maybe
some useful knowledge on crypto, remailers, anonymity,
digital cash, and other interesting things.
+ The Basic Issues
+ Great Divide: privacy vs. compliance with laws
+ free speech and privacy, even if means some criminals
cannot be caught (a stand the U.S. Constitution was
strongly in favor of, at one time)
- a man's home is his castle...the essence of the Magna
Carta systems...rights of the individual to be secure
from random searches
+ or invasive tactics to catch criminals, regulate
behavior, and control the population
- the legitimate needs to enforce laws, to respond to
+ this parallels the issue of self-protection vs.
protection by law and police
- as seen in the gun debate
- crypto = guns in the sense of being an individual's
- past the point of no return
- Strong crypto as building material for a new age
+ Transnationalism and Increased Degrees of Freedom
- governments can't hope to control movements and
communications of citizens; borders are transparent
+ Not all list members share all views
- This is not "the Official Cypherpunks FAQ." No such thing
can exist. This is the FAQ I wanted written. Views
expressed are my own, with as much input from others, as
much consensus, as I can manage. If you want a radically
different FAQ, write it yourself. If you don't like this
FAQ, don't read it. And tell your friends not to read it.
But don't bog down my mailbox, or the 500 others on the
list, with messages about how you would have worded Section
22.214.171.124 slightly differently, or how Section 6.9.12 does
not fully reflect your views. For obvious reasons.
- All FAQs are the products of a primary author, sometimes of
a committee. For this FAQ, I am the sole author. At least
of the version you are reading now. Future versions may
have more input from others, though this makes me nervous
(I favor new authors writing their own stuff, or using
hypertext links, rather than taking my basic writing and
attaching their name to it--it is true that I include the
quotes of many folks here, but I do so by explicitly
quoting them in the chunk they wrote....it will be tough
for later authors to clearly mark what Tim May wrote
without excessively cluttering the text. The revisionist's
- The list has a lot of radical libertarians, some anarcho-
capitalists, and even a few socialists
- Mostly computer-related folks, as might be expected. (There
are some political scientists, classical scholars, etc.
Even a few current or ex-lawyers.)
+ Do I Speak for Others?
- As I said, no. But sometimes I make claims about what
"most" list members believe, what "many" believe, or what
- "Most" is my best judgment of what the majority believe,
at least the vocal majority in Cypherpunks discussions
(at the physical meetings, parties, etc.) and on the
List. "Many" means fewer, and "some" fewer still. "A few"
will mean a distinct minority. Note that this is from the
last 18 months of activity (so don't send in
clarifications now to try to "sway the vote").
- In particular, some members may be quite uncomfortable
being described as anarchists, crypto anarchists, money
+ My comments won't please everyone
- on nearly every point ever presented, some have disagreed
- feuds, battles, flames, idee fixes
- on issues ranging from gun control to Dolphin Encrypt to
various pet theories held dearly
- Someone once made a mundane joke about pseudonyms being
like multiple personality disorder--and a flame came back
saying: "That's not funny. I am MPD and my SO is MPD.
Please stop immediately!"
- can't be helped....can't present all sides to all arguments
+ Focus of this FAQ is U.S.-centric, for various reasons
- most on list are in U.S., and I am in U.S.
- NSA and crypto community is largely centered in the U.S.,
with some strong European activities
- U.S. law is likely to influence overseas law
+ We are at a fork in the road, a Great Divide
- Surveillance vs. Freedom
- nothing in the middle...either strong crypto and privacy is
strongly limited, or the things I describe here will be
done by some people....hence the "tipping factor" applies
(point of no return, horses out of the barn)
+ I make no claim to speaking "for the group." If you're
offended, write your own FAQ. My focus on things loosely
called "crypto anarchy" is just that: my _focus_. This focus
naturally percolates over into something like this FAQ, just
as someone primarily interested in the mechanics of PGP would
devote more space to PGP issues than I have.
- Gary Jeffers, for example, devotes most of his "CEB" to
issues surrounding PGP.
+ Will leave out some of the highly detailed items...
- Clipper, LEAF, escrow, Denning, etc.
- a myriad of encryption programs, bulk ciphers, variants on
PGP, etc. Some of these I've listed...others I've had to
throw my hands over and just ignore. (Keeping track of
zillions of versions for dozens of platforms...)
- easy to get lost in the details, buried in the bullshit
1.3.1. With so much material available, why another FAQ?
1.3.2. No convenient access to archives of the list....and who could
read 50 MB of stuff anyway?
1.3.3. Why not Web? (Mosaic, Http, URL, etc.)
- Why not a navigable Web document?
- This is becoming trendy. Lots of URLs are included here, in
fact. But making all documents into Web documents has
+ Reasons why not:
- No easy access for me.
- Many others also lack access. Text still rules.
- Not at all clear that a collection of hundreds of
fragments is useful
- I like the structured editors available on my Mac
(specifically, MORE, an outline editor)
1.3.4. What the Essential Points Are
- It's easy to lose track of what the core issues are, what
the really important points are. In a FAQ like this, a vast
amount of "cruft" is presented, that is, a vast amount of
miscellaneous, tangential, and epiphenomenal material.
Names of PGP versions, variants on steganograhy, and other
such stuff, all of which will change over the next few
months and years.
+ And yet that's partly what a FAQ is for. The key is just
not to lose track of the key ideas. I've mentioned what I
think are the important ideas many times. To wit:
- that many approaches to crypto exist
- that governments essentially cannot stop most of these
approaches, short of establishing a police state (and
probably not even then)
- core issues of identity, authentication, pseudonyms,
1.4 Who Should Read This
1.4.1. "Should I read this?"
- Yes, reading this will point you toward other sources of
information, will answer the most commonly asked questions,
and will (hopefully) head off the reappearance of the same
tired themes every few months.
- Use a search tool if you have one. Grep for the things that
interest you, etc. The granularity of this FAQ does not
lend itself to Web conversion, at least not with present
+ What _Won't_ Be Covered Here
+ basic cryptography
+ many good texts, FAQs, etc., written by full-time
cryptologists and educators
- in particular, some of the ideas are not simple, and
take several pages of well-written text to get the
- not the focus of this FAQ
- basic political rants
1.5 Comments on Style and Thoroughness
1.5. Comments on Style and Thoroughness
1.5.1. "Why is this FAQ not in Mosaic form?"
- because the author (tcmay, as of 7/94) does not have Mosaic
access, and even if did, would not necessarily....
- linear text is still fine for some things...can be read on
all platforms, can be printed out, and can be searched with
standard grep and similar tools
1.5.2. "Why the mix of styles?"
+ There are three main types of styles here:
- Standard prose sections, explaining some point or listing
things. Mini-essays, like most posts to Cypherpunks.
+ Short, outline-style comments
- that I didn't have time or willpower to expand into
- that work best in outline format anyway
- like this
+ Quotes from others
- Cypherpunks are a bright group. A lot of clever things
have been said in the 600 days x 40 posts/day = 24,000
posts, and I am trying to use what I can.
+ Sadly, only a tiny fraction can be used
- because I simply cannot _read_ even a fraction of
these posts over again (though I've only saved
several thousand of the posts)
- and because including too many of these posts would
simply make the FAQ too long (it's still too long, I
- I hope you can handle the changes in tone of voice, in
styles, and even in formats. It'll just too much time to
make it all read uniformly.
1.5.3. Despite the length of this thing, a vast amount of stuff is
missing. There have been hundreds of incisive analyses by
Cypherpunks, dozens of survey articles on Clipper, and
thousands of clever remarks. Alas, only a few of them here.
- And with 25 or more books on the Internet, hundreds of FAQs
and URLs, it's clear that we're all drowning in a sea of
information about the Net.
- Ironically, good old-fashioned books have a lot more
relevant and timeless information.
1.5.4. Caveats on the completeness or accuracy of this FAQ
+ not all points are fully fleshed out...the outline nature
means that nearly all points could be further added-to,
subdivided, taxonomized, and generally fleshed-out with
more points, counterpoints, examples
- like a giant tree...branches, leaves, tangled hierarchies
+ It is inevitable that conflicting points will be made in a
document of this size
- views change, but don't get corrected in all places
- different contexts lead to different viewpoints
- simple failure by me to be fully consistent
- and many points raised here would, if put into an essay
for the Cypherpunks list, generate comments, rebuttals,
debate, and even acrimony....I cannot expect to have all
sides represented fully, especially as the issues are
often murky, unresolved, in dispute, and generally
- inconsistencies in the points here in this FAQ
1.6 Corrections and Elaborations
+ "How to handle corrections or clarifications?"
- While I have done my best to ensure accuracy, errors will
no doubt exist. And as anyone can see from reading the
Cypherpunks list, nearly *any* statement made about any
subject can produce a flurry of rebuttals, caveats,
expansions, and whatnot. Some subjects, such as the nature
of money, the role of Cypherpunks, and the role of
reputations, produce dozens of differing opinions every
time they come up!
- So, it is not likely that my points here will be any
different. Fortunately, the sheer number of points here
means that not every one of them will be disagreed with.
But the math is pretty clear: if every reader finds even
one thing to disagree with and then posts his rebuttal or
elaboration....disaster! (Especially if some people can't
trim quotes properly and end up including a big chunk of
- Send corrections of _fact_ to me
- If you disagree with my opinion, and you think you can
change my mind, or cause me to include your opinion as an
elaboration or as a dissenting view, then send it. If
your point requires long debate or is a deep
disagreement, then I doubt I have the time or energy to
debate. If you want your views heard, write your own FAQ!
- Ultimately, send what you want. But I of course will
evaluate comments and apply a reputation-based filter to
the traffic. Those who send me concise, well-reasoned
corrections or clarifications are likelier to be listened
to than those who barrage me with minor clarifications
- In short, this is not a group project. The "stone soup
FAQ" is not what this is.
+ More information
- Please don't send me e-mail asking for more information
on a particular topic--I just can't handle custom
research. This FAQ is long enough, and the Glossary at
the end contains additional information, so that I cannot
expand upon these topics (unless there is a general
debate on the list). In other words, don't assume this
FAQ is an entry point into a larger data base I will
generate. I hate to sound so blunt, but I've seen the
requests that come in every time I write a fairly long
+ Tips on feedback
- Comments about writing style, of the form "I would have
written it _this_ way," are especially unwelcome.
+ Credit issues
- inevitable that omissions or collisions will occur
- ideas have many fathers
- some ideas have been "in the air" for many years
+ slogans are especially problematic
- "They can have my...."...I credit Barlow with this, but
I've heard others use it independently (I think; at least
I used it before hearing Barlow used it)
- "If crypto is outlawed, only outlaws will have crypto"
- "Big Brother Inside"
- if something really bothers you, send me a note
- My chief thanks go to the several hundred active
Cypherpunks posters, past and present.
- All rights reserved. Copyright Timothy C. May. Don't try to
sell this or incorporate it into anything that is sold.
Quoting brief sections is "fair use"...quoting long
sections is not.
1.8 Ideas and Notes (not to be printed)
1.8.1. Graphics for cover
- two blocks...plaintext to cryptotext
- Cypherpunks FAQ
- compiled by Timothy C. May, email@example.com
- with help from many Cypherpunks
- with material from other sources
1.8.2. "So don't ask"
1.9 Things are moving quickly in crypto and crypto policy
1.9.1. hard to keep this FAQ current, as info changes
1.9.2. PGP in state of flux
1.9.3. new versions of tools coming constantly
1.9.4. And the whole Clipper thing has been turned on its head
recently by the Administration's backing off...lots of points
already made here are now rendered moot and are primarily of
historical interest only.
- Gore's letter to Cantwell
- Whit Diffie described a conference on key escrow systems in
Karlsruhe, Germany, which seemed to contain new ideas
- TIS? (can't use this info?)
1.10 Notes: The Cyphernomicon: the CypherFAQ and More
1.10.1. 2.3.1. "The Book of Encyphered Names"
- Ibn al-Taz Khallikak, the Pine Barrens Horror.
- Liber Grimoiris....Cifur???
- spreading from the Sumerian sands, through the gate of
Ishtar, to the back alleys of Damascus, tempered with the
blood of Westerners
- Keys of Solomon, Kool John Dee and the Rapping Cryps Gone
- Peter Krypotkin, the Russian crypto anarchist
- Twenty-nine Primes, California
1.10.2. 2.3.2. THE CYPHERNOMICON: a Cypherpunk FAQ and More---
1.10.3. 1994-09-01, Copyright Timothy C. May, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Written and compiled by Tim May, except as noted by
credits. (Influenced by years of good posts on the
Cypherpunks list.) Permission is granted to post and
distribute this document in an unaltered and complete
state, for non-profit and educational purposes only.
Reasonable quoting under "fair use" provisions is
permitted. See the detailed disclaimer of responsibilities
and liabilities in the Introduction chapter.