“CryptoParty” sounds like an event involving strangers in balaclavas and Guy Fawkes masks sipping cocktails and staring unblinkingly at each other. That might be fun, but a CryptoParty is really, according to this wiki, a gathering of “Interested parties with computers and the desire to learn to use the most basic crypto programs.” CryptoParties are practical efforts to assist private citizens in learning how to combat what many activists contend is a creeping Orwellian surveillance state in developed countries worldwide.
In a post published a few days ago, the Australian edition of SC Magazine elaborated:
Information security experts and privacy advocates of all political stripes have organised the causal gatherings to teach users how to use cryptography and anonymity tools including Tor, PGP and Cryptocat.
The magazine reports the concept of CryptoParties was born during a Twitter discussion in August between security experts and “privacy activist” Asher Wolf.
SC Magazine claimed cryptoparties are going viral. That may not yet be true, but on Friday Asher Wolf tweeted the following regarding the wiki at CryptoParty.org:
— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) September 7, 2012
On its landing page, CryptoParty.org lists pages for “global meetups,” including a tentative September 22 cryptoparty in Philadelphia. The author of the Philadelphia meetup page addresses the connection between cryptoparties and surveillance concerns but states a CryptoParty is “not a ‘hacking course’ or a ‘hackathon,'” even though participants might, you know, “expect to learn the basic operation of some information security tools.”
The most interesting cryptoparties so far are going on in Cookeville, Tennessee. SC Magazine reports the first party held in Cookeville “had more than 100 people turn up to its afterparty, an event complete with music, beer and fire-twirling.”
Anyone attending the next party, set for September 13 in the Volpe Library on the campus of Tennessee Tech, can expect to learn about bitcoin, Tor, IRC and hard disk encryption.
That’s all fascinating hacker-friendly arcana, but we kind of hope the fire-twirling guy gives some lessons as well.