In the Beginning, There Was CypherPunks

My illustration sketch of a group of CypherPunks (数码朋克) in action, championing Anonymous (匿名者), they are all wearing the Guy Fawkes masks.


Prior to next month’s annual Million Mask March, which occurs on on Guy Fawkes Day on 5th November, I have produced the above illustration to showcase the Anonymous, originally a group of internet forum users, a decentralized international hacktivist group that is widely known for its various DDoS cyber attacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations, and the Church of Scientology.

Cypherpunk is any activist advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change. Originally communicating through the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list, informal groups aimed to achieve privacy and security through proactive use of cryptography. Cypherpunks have been engaged in an active movement since the late 1980s.


In the illustration, it showcases the words ‘CypherPunk Manifesto’, ‘CryptoCurrency’, ‘Cryptography’, ‘Anonymous Systems’, and the most important in my opinion – ‘Decentralization’.


List of Noteworthy Cypherpunks

This list is updated periodically. Last updated 15 December 2018.

Cypherpunks list participants included many notable computer industry figures. Most were list regulars, although not all would call themselves “cypherpunks”. The following is a list of noteworthy cypherpunks and their achievements (sorted alphabetically):

  • Adam Back: inventor of Hashcash and of NNTP-based Eternity networks, co-founder of Blockstream.
  • Bram Cohen: creator of BitTorrent. and lecturer at The Ohio State University.
  • Bruce Schneier*: well-known security author.
  • Dave Del Torto: PGPv3 volunteer, founding PGP Inc. employee, longtime Cypherpunks physical meeting organizer, co-author of RFC3156 (PGP/MIME) standard, co-founder of IETF OpenPGP Working Group and the CryptoRights Foundation human rights non-profit, HighFire project principal architect.
  • Derek Atkins: Computer scientist, computer security expert, and one of the people who factored RSA-129.
  • Eric Blossom: designer of the Starium cryptographically secured mobile phone, founder of the GNU Radio project.
  • Eric Hughes: Author of The Cypherpunk’s Manifesto
  • Eva Galperin: Malware researcher and security advocate, Electronic Frontier Foundation activist.
  • Hal Finney (deceased): cryptographer, main author of PGP 2.0 and the core crypto libraries of later versions of PGP; designer of RPOW.
  • Hugh Daniel (deceased): former Sun Microsystems employee, manager of the FreeS/WAN project (an early and important freeware IPsec implementation).
  • Ian Goldberg*: professor at University of Waterloo, designer of the Off-the-record messaging protocol.
  • Jacob Appelbaum: Tor developer, is at the Mailing List Archives
  • Jillian C. York: Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
  • Johan Helsingius: creator and operator of Penet remailer.
  • John Gilmore*: Sun Microsystems’ fifth employee, co-founder of the Cypherpunks as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, project leader for FreeS/WAN.
  • John Young: anti-secrecy activist and cofounder of Cryptome.
  • Jon Callas: technical lead on OpenPGP specification, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of PGP Corporation, co-founder with Philip Zimmermann of Silent Circle.
  • Julian Oliver: Artist, privacy advocate, critical engineer. Co-founder of Critical Engineering.
  • Len Sassaman (deceased): maintainer of the Mixmaster Remailer software, researcher at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and a biopunk.
  • Marc Horowitz: author of the first PGP key server.
  • Michael Froomkin*: Distinguished Professor of Law University of Miami School of Law.
  • Mike Godwin: Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer, electronic rights advocate.
  • Nadia Heninger: assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania, security researcher.
  • Paul Kocher: president of Cryptography Research, Inc., co-author of the SSL 3.0 protocol., Principal Cryptographic Engineer for PGP Corporation, Co Founder of Silent Circle., Co Founder 4th-A Technologies, LLC.
  • Peter Junger (deceased): Law professor at Case Western Reserve University.
  • Philip Zimmermann: original creator of PGP v1.0 (1991), co-founder of PGP Inc. (1996), co-founder with Jon Callas of Silent Circle.
  • Robert Hettinga: Founder of the International Conference on Financial Cryptography and originator of the idea of Financial cryptography as an applied subset of cryptography.
  • Rop Gonggrijp: founder of XS4ALL, co-creator of the Cryptophone.
  • Runa Sandvik: Tor developer, political advocate.
  • Sameer Parekh: former CEO of C2Net and co-founder of the CryptoRights Foundation human rights non-profit.
  • Satoshi Nakamoto: anonymous creator(s) of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and inventor(s) of the blockchain technology.
  • Sean Hastings: founding CEO of Havenco and co-author of the book God Wants You Dead.
  • Steven Schear: Creator of the warrant canary, and GNURadio, team member Counterpane, former Director at data security company Cylink and MojoNation, current Vice President at StashCrypto.
  • Suelette Dreyfus: co-author of Rubberhose, a deniable encryption archive.
  • Tim Hudson: co-author of SSLeay, the precursor to OpenSSL. Creator of the stealth technology used in Stuxnet, virus author, programmer.
  • Timothy C. May (deceased): Author of The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto (1992) and The Cyphernomicon (1994)
  • Werner Koch: author of GNU Privacy Guard.

* indicates someone mentioned in the acknowledgements of Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Cryptonomicon, published in 1999, many characters are on the “Secret Admirers” mailing list. This is fairly obviously based on the cypherpunks list, and several well-known cypherpunks are mentioned in the acknowledgements. Much of the plot revolves around cypherpunk ideas; the leading characters are building a data haven which will allow anonymous financial transactions, and the book is full of cryptography.

But, according to the author the book’s title is — in spite of its similarity— not based on the Cyphernomicon, and Eric Hughes delivered the keynote address at the Amsterdam CryptoParty on 27 August 2012.


I drew the illustration in a futuristic style – with hologram computer screens, with latest IBM mainframe/supercomputers in the backdrop. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, the Cypherpunk in the center, is wearing a Japanese hat – Amigasa; representing Satoshi Nakamoto


The Cyphernomicon

Written by Timothy C. May on 10 September 1994

“The Cyphernomicon” is a document written by Timothy C. May in 1994 for the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list. In a FAQ format, the document outlines some of the ideas behind, and the effects of, crypto-anarchism. It is one of the philosophy’s founding documents, advocating electronic privacy and anonymous digital currency. It touches on more esoteric topics, such as assassination markets. It contains May’s 1992 essay “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” in its entirety.

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