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The Crypto Singularity



We appear to be entering the long-awaited "Crypto Singularity." (Well,
long-awaited by me at least!) A "singularity" in the sense of
extremely rapid changes in outlook, technology, and culture. (The use
comes from Vernor Vinge's science fictional "singularity" in new
technologies, as described in "Marooned in Realtime," and appropriated
for their own purposes by the nanotechnology enthusiasts.)

Some evidence for this "Crypto Singularity":

* the appearance of fully-encrypted remailers, using the Perl scripts
of Eric Hughes and Hal Finney. With several more such remailing sites
(and recall John Little's offer to place the s/w on Portal), a
critical mass of remailers may exist. (A packet remailed through 10
remailers, each storing 10 such encrypted packets before remailing,
has an intrinsic diffusivity of 10^10. Of course, there will be far
fewer than 10 billion messages, but the point is clear that the origin
of a message is effectively untraceable.) 

* the spread of PGP, onto Internet sites, FidoNet, and hacker boards,
IRCs, and the like. (I expect the adoption of PGP by the phone
hacker/phreaker community--the community so far the main target of
formal charges, as in the Legion of Doom, Len Rose, and Sun Devil
cases--is setting off alarms in the law enforcement community.)

* the "Hacker Crackdown" spreading to "2600" (will Cyperpunks be next?
Will the 150-200 of us get raided?) and mere _meetings_ of hacker
folks.

* the incredible excitement over these topics at the Hackers
Conference, with the sense that these are no longer just abstract
ideas.

* the interest by several journalists in covering these matters (more
on this if things develop).

* articles in "Scientific American" just in the past
months...David Chaum's work on digital cash, and quantum cryptography.

* the firestorm of comments (over 500) about the proposal to register
cryptographic keys. 

All of these point to an accelerating situation. Things may get very
interesting and very sticky in the next several months, which is quite
a bit faster than I'd expected.

Justice and the FBI may not wait until the next Administration to get
something started. Perhaps a high-publicity case involving drugs or
child molestors will be used as a pretext to crack down. This
crackdown may not need new laws...the existing conspiracy, RICI Act,
and espionage laws may be enough to "set some examples."

Our next Cypherpunks meeting (Saturday, 21 November) should look at
some of these issues. "Time is of the essence."

--Tim

-- 
..........................................................................
Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
[email protected]       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets, 
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839 | PGP Public Key: awaiting Macintosh version.