draft FAQ

Eric S. Raymond esr at snark.thyrsus.com
Sun May 23 19:06:45 PDT 1993

Here's the first draft of the FAQ.  You'll see that it's basically a frame,
an outline, and an intro.  If you can fill in one of the sections, please
do so and mail it to me.

This is the Cypherpunks FAQ.  It explains the projects and purposes of the
Cypherpunks mailing list.  It is also intended to serve as a general
introduction to privacy and encryption issues.

For details on the technical and theoretical aspects of computer cryptography,
see the sci.crypt FAQ, available for FTP from rtfm.mit.edu ( in the
directory pub/usenet-by-group/sci.crypt.

The cypherpunks archive is available for FTP at


This site contains code, information, rants, and other miscellany, including
the most up-to-date version of this FAQ.

This FAQ is maintained by Eric S. Raymond <esr at snark.thyrsus.com>; send
additions and corrections to that address.  Sections contributed by others are
credited to individual authors.  We gratefully acknowledge, in addition,
feedback and comments from David Mandl <dmandl at lehman.com> and Eric Hughes
<hughes at soda.berkeley.edu>.

1. Why cypherpunks?

   Because privacy is essential to freedom.

   If the government (or any other oppressor that behaves like one) can
effectively monitor communications, it can control or suppress them.  And it
will do so, because the natural tendency of controllers is always to seek more

   The government cannot be relied on to protect your privacy rights.  Nor
can anyone else --- certainly not your employer, or the corporations that
want to know all about you so they can sell you things.

   Given half the chance, governments and corporations will always push
for security standards that protect *them*, but not *you*.

   Computer technology can help protect you against would-be snoopers, but only
if somebody is sufficiently smart and dedicated to build the tools.

   The Cypherpunks list exists to build and propagate privacy software.  Our
aim is to give you the tools to communicate with other people and computers
in ways snoopers cannot tap.

2. What are the essentials of privacy software?
   a. Public-key cryptosystems for secure communication.
   b. Unforgeable electronic signatures for message authentication.
   c. DC-net or similar protocols to thwart spoofing.

3. What are the potential applications of good privacy software?
   a. Secure communications.
   b. Digital cash.
   c. Electronic voting.
   d. Electronic contracts.
   e. Secure anonymous remailers and posters.
   f. <more?>

4. What are the key algorithms, tools, and implementations for privacy
   a. RSA
   b. DES
   c. Clipper/Capstone/DSS
   d. PGP
   e. Possible non-RSA trapdoor functions.

5. What are the social and political implications of good privacy software?
   a. Drastically lower transaction costs for trade.
   b. Expansion of the counter-economy.
   c. Disempowerment of government.
   d. Anonymity for whistleblowers.

6. What are the legal, political, and technical obstacles?
   a. The Clipper/Capstone/DSS power grab.
   b. The RSA patent and the PGP/RSA fight.
   c. RSA's base problem may not be NP-complete.

7. What can I do to help?
   a. Work on cryptographic software.
      <this subsection should list current projects>
   b. Agitate against the Clipper/Capstone/DES standard.
   c. Promote the use of encrypted communication, help spread PGP and
      other appropriate tools far and wide (both to help get a better
      foothold to thwart the Clipper monopoly and its ilk, and to work
      towards making crypto as commonplace as envelopes).

To join the cypherpunks mailing list, send a request to:

	cypherpunks at toad.com

Working with us could be your best shot at stopping Big Brother.  So if you
have skills to contribute, act now.  The freedom you save could be your own.


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