About Cypherpunks


Please read, boring though it may be

The cypherpunks list is a forum for discussing personal defenses for privacy in the digital domain. It is a high volume mailing list. If you don't know how to do something, like unsubscribe, send mail to

and the software robot which answers that address will send you back instructions on how to do what you want. We are using majordomo for list management. The instructions that cypherpunks-request sends you will tell you to actually send commands to

If you don't know the majordomo syntax, an empty message to this address will get you a help file, as will a command 'help' in the body. Even will all this automated help, you may still encounter problems. If you get really stuck, pelase fell free to contact me directly at the address I use for mailing list management:

Please use this address for all mailing list management issues. Hint: if you try to unsubscribe yourself from a different account that you signed up for, it likely won't work. Log back into your old account and try again. If you no longer have access to that account, mail me at the list management address above.

For other questions, my list management address is not the best place, since I don't read it every day. To reach me otherwise, send mail to

This address is appropriate for emergencies (and wanting to get off the list is never an emergency), such as the list continuously spewing articles. Please don't send me mail to my regular mailbox asking to be removed; I'll just send you back a form letter.

Do not mail to the whole list asking to be removed. It's rude. The -request address is made exactly for this purpose.

To post to the whole list, send mail to

If your mail bounces repeatedly, you will be removed from the list. Nothing personal, but I have to look at all the bounce messages.

There is no digest version available.

There is an announcements list which is moderated and has low volume. Announcements for physical cypherpunks meetings, new software and important developments will be posted there. Mail to

if you want to be added or removed to the announce list. All announcements also go out to the full cypherpunks list, so there is no need to subscribe to both.

About cypherpunks

The cypherpunks list is not designed for beginners, although they are welcome. If you are totally new to crypto, please get and read the crypto FAQ referenced below. This document is a good introduction, although not short. Crypto is a subtle field and a good understanding will not come without some study. Please, as a courtesy to all, do some reading to make sure that your question is not already frequently asked.

There are other forums to use on the subject of cryptography. The Usenet group sci.crypt deals with technical cryptography; cypherpunks deals with technical details but slants the discussion toward their social implications. The Usenet group talk.politics.crypto, as is says, is for political theorizing, and cypherpunks gets its share of that, but cypherpunks is all pro-crypto; the debates on this list are about how to best get crypto out there. The Usenet group alt.security.pgp is a pgp-specific group, and questions about pgp as such are likely better asked there than here. Ditto for alt.security.ripem.

The cypherpunks list has its very own net.loon, a fellow named L. Detweiler. The history is too long for here, but he thinks that cypherpunks are evil incarnate. If you see a densely worded rant featuring characteristic words such as "medusa", "pseudospoofing", "treachery", "poison", or "black lies", it's probably him, no matter what the From: line says. The policy is to ignore these postings. Replies have never, ever, not even once resulted in anything constructive and usually create huge flamewars on the list. Please, please, don't feed the animals.


The sci.crypt FAQ
The cryptography FAQ is good online intro to crypto. Very much worth reading. Last I looked, it was in ten parts.
cypherpunks ftp site
This site contains code, information, rants, and other miscellany. There is a glossary there that all new members should download and read. Also recommended for all users are Hal Finney's instructions on how to use the anonymous remailer system; the remailer sources are there for the perl-literate, as well as an installation script.
Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography published by Wiley
This is required reading for any serious technical cypherpunk. An excellent overview of the field, it describes many of the basic algorithms and protocols with their mathematical descriptions. Some of the stuff at the edges of the scope of the book is a little incomplete, so short descriptions in here should lead to library research for the latest papers, or to the list for the current thinking. All in all, a solid and valuable book. It's even got the cypherpunks-request address.

Famous last words

My preferred email address for list maintenance topics only is hughes@toad.com. All other mail, including emergency mail, should go to hughes@ah.com, where I read mail much more regularly.

Enjoy and deploy.


Cypherpunks assume privacy is a good thing and wish there were more of it. Cypherpunks acknowledge that those who want privacy must create it for themselves and not expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant them privacy out of beneficence. Cypherpunks know that people have been creating their own privacy for centuries with whispers, envelopes, closed doors, and couriers. Cypherpunks do not seek to prevent other people from speaking about their experiences or their opinions.

The most important means to the defense of privacy is encryption. To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy. But to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy. Cypherpunks hope that all people desiring privacy will learn how best to defend it.

Cypherpunks are therefore devoted to cryptography. Cypherpunks wish to learn about it, to teach it, to implement it, and to make more of it. Cypherpunks know that cryptographic protocols make social structures. Cypherpunks know how to attack a system and how to defend it. Cypherpunks know just how hard it is to make good cryptosystems.

Cypherpunks love to practice. They love to play with public key cryptography. They love to play with anonymous and pseudonymous mail forwarding and delivery. They love to play with DC-nets. They love to play with secure communications of all kinds.

Cypherpunks write code. They know that someone has to write code to defend privacy, and since it's their privacy, they're going to write it. Cypherpunks publish their code so that their fellow cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Cypherpunks realize that security is not built in a day and are patient with incremental progress.

Cypherpunks don't care if you don't like the software they write. Cypherpunks know that software can't be destroyed. Cypherpunks know that a widely dispersed system can't be shut down.

Cypherpunks will make the networks safe for privacy.

The Cypherpunks WWW - sameer <sameer@c2.org>