What is cryptography? Who are the cypherpunks?


Cryptography is a field of study that focuses on the secure communication of information. It is used to protect confidential information by scrambling it so that it is unreadable by anyone except the intended recipient. The term was first used in the 1940s, but the modern practice of cryptography has its roots in the Cold War. The cypherpunks are a group of computer security experts and activists who are concerned with the privacy and security of digital communications. They are responsible for the development of many of the cryptographic algorithms used today.

As early as 1982, Chaum introduced the blind digital signature method, a public key encryption model. The development made it possible to create a database of people who could remain anonymous, while guaranteeing the accuracy of the information they reported about themselves. Chaum dreamed of digital voting, the process of which could be verified without revealing the identity of the voter, but primarily of digital cash.

Chaum’s ideas inspired a group of cryptographers, hackers and activists. It was they who became known as cypherpunks – members of the movement advocating computer technology as a means of destroying state power and centralized control systems.

One of the ideologists of the movement was an American cryptographer, former leading researcher at Intel Timothy May. In 1987, May met the American economist, entrepreneur, and futurist Philip Sahlin, who founded American Information Exchange (AMiX), an online marketplace for data trading.

However, May did not like the idea of ​​an electronic marketplace where people could (cross-border and at low fees) sell little meaningful information to each other. He dreamed of creating a global system that would allow anonymous two-way exchange of any information and resemble a corporate information system.

May subsequently finalized this concept in the form of a system black net, which required a non-government digital currency and the ability to make untraceable payments in it. In 1985 he read article David Chaum “Security without identity: a transactional system that will make Big Brother an anachronism.” In the article, Chaum described a system that cryptographically hides the identity of the buyer. May’s exposure to this idea prompted him to study public-key cryptographic security.

He soon came to the conclusion that such cryptography, coupled with network computing, could “destroy the structures of social power.”

In September 1988, May wrote “Crypto Anarchist Manifestobased on Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”: “A ghost haunts the modern world, the ghost of crypto-anarchy.” According to the manifesto, information technology will allow people to manage their lives without governments, with the help of cryptography, digital currencies and other decentralized tools.

In 1992, May, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, John Gilmour, and Eric Hughes, a mathematician at the University of California at Berkeley, invited 20 of their close friends to an informal meeting. During the meeting, they discussed the most topical issues of cryptography and programming at that time. Such meetings began to be held regularly and laid the foundation for a whole movement. Was created mailing list e-mail (mailing list) in order to attract to the work of other people who share the interests and basic values ​​​​of the founding group. Soon the mailing list had hundreds of subscribers – they were testing ciphers, exchanging ideas and discussing new developments. Correspondence was conducted using the latest encryption methods at that time, such as PGP. The group members led discussions on the topics of politics, philosophy, computer science, cryptography and mathematics.

In 1993, Eric Hughes published “Cypherpunk Manifesto”, containing the key provisions of this movement:

“Privacy is essential in an open society in the digital age. […] Privacy in an open society requires the use of cryptography. […] We cypherpunks are called to create anonymous systems. We protect our privacy with cryptography, anonymous email forwarding systems, digital signatures and electronic money. […] Cryptography will inevitably spread throughout the world, and with it the systems of anonymous transactions that it makes possible.”

The importance of privacy, anonymous transactions, cryptographic protection – all these ideas have subsequently been implemented in one form or another in cryptocurrencies.

By 1997, the mailing list had about 2,000 subscribers and 30 messages daily. In 1995, his first post in Cypherpunk published WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange. In 2016, he released a book about the cypherpunk movement called Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.

The term “cypherpunks” was first used by a hacker and programmer Jude Milhon to a group of crypto-anarchists. Cypherpunk and crypto-anarchism are not identical, but kindred currents that actually share the same values. Crypto-anarchism (crypto-anarchy) is a type of anarchism in which anonymization technologies, digital pseudonyms and digital money protected by cryptography are used to free from state control – surveillance, censorship and taxation.


Cryptography is an essential tool for protecting data and information. It has been used throughout history and continues to evolve along with the technology that it protects. The cypherpunks are a group of people who believe in using cryptography as a tool to protect individual privacy and freedom. They have been instrumental in the development of tools and technologies for protecting data and information, and their influence can still be felt today.


What is cryptography?

Cryptography is the practice of using complex coding and mathematical algorithms to securely store and transmit data across computer networks.

Who are the cypherpunks?

The cypherpunks are a loose international group of computer scientists, mathematicians, and activists who are interested in creating, promoting, and using strong cryptography to protect individual privacy.

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