inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #51 of 86: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Fri 16 Feb 01 14:30
    

  Mike's #49 reminds me of one gripe I had about the book: it seemed
to me to place much more emphasis on the industry players than seems
justified (IMO).  So, yeah, do you think the non-business characters
were less significant in this whole story?  And if so, why?  Yes, in
places you mentioned a few of the names and even talked about them a
bit, but the overall impression was that their efforts were just "on
the edges" and not central.  That seems wrong to me.

  I freely admit to some personal bias here: while I was never active
in the Cypherpunks discussions (except offline), many of these people
are or have been my personal friends for a long time (e.g., I've known
John Gilmore since about 1984 or 1985) and I know that many of them
have done enormous amounts of hard work, for which I like to see them
get recognition.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #52 of 86: Steven Levy (steven) Sat 17 Feb 01 09:07
    
I would also recommend Bamford's books.  He is writing a sequel that will
come out, I believe, in April, which will update the story, and I'm looking
forward to that.

I think the Cypherpunks were really important as players.  It's tough to
measure their direct influence because their thoughts were amplified (in
part by people like me, but that was part of their conscious strategy) and
affected others and drew attention to not only to their point of view, but
the arguements behind it.  They were also a hell of a lot of fun. (Still are
-- I went to a meeting last month.) Some people have complained that I
didn't spend even more space on them, but I still think I have it right.  A
long chapter on them and individual appearances in other chapters. (Was
Zimmermann a cipherpunk?  Not literally but certainly in spirit.)

And Bob's talk about the industry players puzzles me. I did give a lot of
attention to Bidzos/RSA and Ray Ozzie's struggles to get Lotus throught he
export barricades.  But that struck me as a big part of the central story --
after all, if the stuff couldn't be commercialized what chance did it stand
to be ubiquitous?
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #53 of 86: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Mon 19 Feb 01 11:16
    

  Yes.... yes, you're right about that.   Although of course you know
what a lot of the free software types would say {grin}.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #54 of 86: Fuzzy Logic (phred) Tue 20 Feb 01 02:20
    
I actually think (as also a longtime friend of John Gilmore and an early
lurker on the cypherpunks list until the Detweiler thing got out of hand)
that the balance was quite good.  The info about Bidzos's career and
motivations is critical to the story, and I'm really glad that was given
so much play. 

Two a propos references... Here's John Gilmore's very cogent piece on
the threats posed by the new copy prohibition initiatives (most famously
DVD, with the limitations of the forthcoming Apple Super Drive as a
story hook) and CPRM:

http://www.toad.com/gnu/whatswrong.html

And from Computerworld via the Infoworld web site,
"NSA warns it can't keep up with rapid changes in IT":

www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/02/19/010219hnnsa.xml?p=br&s=7
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #55 of 86: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Tue 20 Feb 01 12:20
    

Steven, it seems to me that from HACKERS to CRYPTO you've been spotlighting
people who've labored, often in obscurity, to develop tools that empower
the rest of us -- from microcomputers to accessible user interfaces to
"evolving" software to crypto.

What kinds of tools do you see people laboring on these days that may
ultimately turn into the kind of story that you like to do?
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #56 of 86: Steven Levy (steven) Tue 20 Feb 01 20:11
    
Though I didn't talk to John Gilmore last week while working on my column,
some things he was saying at a cyperpunks meeting last month helped my
thinking on the issue of copy-protection of IP, and how it threatens legal
use of the music and even books we buy.

Right now, Mike, I can't say where a similar story to Hackers or Crypto
resides.  An obvious place to look might be Open Source, but there's already
been five or six books on it, with a few more to come. In that case, the gap
between obscurity and fame (at least in a certain realm) is a much smaller
one that with early hackers or pioneering crypto guys (unless you go back to
Stallman and UNIX guys; I'm talking about Linux and thereafter).  In early
hackerdom, and certainly not in early cryptodom, you didn't have an Eric
Raymond explictly banging the drum for What It All Means, and there's a
certain amount of assuming that History is happening here.  It may well be,
but I'm going to look for something not fully told.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #57 of 86: Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Tue 20 Feb 01 21:28
    
 Geeks who can do their own PR are indeed somewhat frightening.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #58 of 86: James Howard (howardjp) Wed 21 Feb 01 07:38
    
Don't write about Stallman, show how the entire open source movement grew
out of Berkeley :)
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #59 of 86: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Wed 21 Feb 01 10:46
    

  I've been re-reading parts of Crypto, and I have to revise my earlier
comment about the balance between individuals and businesses.  I think
that, all things considered, you struck the right balance there, Steven.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #60 of 86: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Wed 21 Feb 01 12:58
    

The reason I asked the cypherpunks question was that, after reading CRYPTO,
it seemed to me that you could subtract the cypherpunk subculture from the
equation and still get the same result (liberalization/relaxation of
government restrictions on crypto and the abandonment of Clipper-like
strategies for containing it and preserving wiretap capability).

But if you subtracted out the industry pressure instead, you might not get
the same result at all, because without the economics/business pressure,
the NSA and the DOJ probably would just have hung tough.

If "cypherpunks" is expanded into a broad enough category to include
Phil Zimmermann and Matt Blaze, though, then my little thought experiment
changes.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #61 of 86: Declined To State (jrc) Wed 21 Feb 01 16:05
    

The NYTimes yesterday had a story about a proven unbreakable code, something
that generates cypher numbers that then disappears using...well, the story
lost me. And then some peoiple syaing it's a breakthourgh and others saying,
feh, not really. Steven, your thoughts?
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #62 of 86: Steven Levy (steven) Fri 23 Feb 01 06:55
    
Part of the problem in evaluating Rabin's scheme is that there's nothing
published and not even a preprint available.  The Times story doesn't fill
in all the holes.  So it's hard to evaluate the scheme's practical value,
though clearly the mathematical triumph of building on a one-time pad for a
more sophisticated "unbreakable code" is considerable.  Rabin is not to be
brushed off; he's a Turing award winner (the closest computer science has to
a Nobel prize) and inventor of the standard test for primality (used in RSA,
etc.).  On the other hand, people like Schneier are correct in noting that
the most efficient way to break codes is not to attack them at their
apparently strongest point -- the mathematical forumulae-- but sometimes
really easy weaknesses in implementation.  I get into this question in the
beginning of the last chapter of Crypto, talking about Robert Morris's
"koans" for cryptanalysis.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #63 of 86: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 23 Feb 01 13:57
    

Mike and Steven, let me thank you for your participation here in
inkwell.vue.   We wish you much success with your book, and we appreciate
your willingness to come and talk to us.  It's really been interesting.

You are, of course, willing to continue for as long as you like!
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #64 of 86: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Fri 23 Feb 01 15:03
    

  As well as welcome to continue!
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #65 of 86: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 23 Feb 01 15:38
    

Oops.  %^)

(That was certainly one of my better typos!)
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #66 of 86: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 23 Feb 01 16:28
    
heh
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #67 of 86: Steven Levy (steven) Fri 23 Feb 01 19:28
    
I've been enjoying this, and will keep going if there's the interest, though
from sun-wed will be out of the country and not doing much online.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #68 of 86: Steven Levy (steven) Fri 23 Feb 01 19:30
    
And thanks to all, particularly Mike, whose close attention to the book has
been very flattering.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #69 of 86: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 23 Feb 01 19:48
    

See you when you get back!
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #70 of 86: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 24 Feb 01 08:50
    
Thanks, Steven and Mike! Great interview, clearly sustainable given that
we haven't quite melted the tip of the iceberg...
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #71 of 86: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Sat 24 Feb 01 20:22
    

Thanks to Steven and everyone else here!
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #72 of 86: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sun 25 Feb 01 19:57
    
I hope it's not over - I just got the book this week and am only
halfway through.

I'm a Unix system administrator and I've been aware of the general
movements described in the book - I attended one of the late 80's CFP
conferences, and I used to hang out with the East coast Extropians
occasionally.  I am really enjoying reading the whole story in one
place! I remember all the stink about exporting crypto and all the
various websites that tried to put you through little tests before
letting you download software. I'm looking forward to getting to the
section about the Scientologists and the anonymous remailers.

One detail that surprised me - the cypherpunks I've run into have been
fervent anarchocapitalists and I hadn't known that there was pressure
in that group to make everything freely available.

So was there a hole in DES, or was it just so easily crackable with
the huge amount of digital horsepower available behind the scenes? 

One thing I've always wondered- what does the NSA do with all their
outdated stuff? Do they have miles of underground crypts storing all
of their antiquated systems in perpetuity?
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #73 of 86: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Mon 26 Feb 01 10:27
    

  One minor correction, betsys: the _first_ CFP conference was in
March 1991, so there were never any "late 80s" ones.  Don't worry,
though, we all mix up memories of dates now and then!
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #74 of 86: James Howard (howardjp) Mon 26 Feb 01 11:59
    
That is not the only occurance of that in the book.  When discusing the
NSA in the first chapter, he says they were never referred to in a
government document until five years after their creation.  That said,
there was (at least) one reference in a document creating the United
States Communications Intelligence Board (see document #0034 in the
Intelligence Community collection from Chadwick Healey).  That said, the
next reference was nearly six years after the creation.
  
inkwell.vue.103 : Steven Levy - Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
permalink #75 of 86: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Mon 26 Feb 01 12:45
    
Oh thanks! Come to think if it, I met <gail> there among other people
so it was after I met <dales> and got on the WELL. That would be
mid-90's. When was it in Cambridge/Boston? Wow, '96, and there is tons
of material from the conference online at www.cfp.org.

That settles it, I am *not* getting any work done today.

Betsy the not-very-temporally anchored. 
  

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