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Meet Moxie Marlinspike, the Anarchist Bringing Encryption to All of Us | WIRED
"Marlinspike isn’t particularly interested in a debate, either; his mind was made up long ago, during years as an anarchist living on the fringes of society. “From very early in my life I’ve had this idea that the cops can do whatever they want, that they’re not on your team,” Marlinspike told me. “That they’re an armed, racist gang.”

Marlinspike views encryption as a preventative measure against a slide toward Orwellian fascism that makes protest and civil disobedience impossible, a threat he traces as far back as J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI wiretapping and blackmailing of Martin Luther King Jr. “Moxie is compelled by the troublemakers of history and their stories,” says Tyler Rein­hard, a designer who worked on Signal. “He sees encryption tools not as taking on the state directly but making sure that there’s still room for people to have those stories.”

ASK MARLINSPIKE TO tell his own story, and—no surprise for a privacy zealot—he’ll often answer with diversions, mono­syllables, and guarded smiles. But anyone who’s crossed paths with him seems to have an outsize anecdote: how he once biked across San Francisco carrying a 40-foot-tall sailboat mast. The time he decided to teach himself to pilot a hot-air balloon, bought a used one from Craigslist, and spent a month on crutches after crashing it in the desert. One friend swears he’s seen Marlinspike play high-stakes rock-paper-scissors dozens of times—with bets of hundreds of dollars or many hours of his time on the line—and has never seen him lose.

But before Marlinspike was a subcultural contender for “most interesting man in the world,” he was a kid growing up with a different and far less interesting name on his birth certificate, somewhere in a region of central Georgia that he describes as “one big strip mall.” His parents—who called him Moxie as a nickname—separated early on. He lived mostly with his mother, a secretary and paralegal at a string of companies. Any other family details, like his real name, are among the personal subjects he prefers not to comment on.

Marlinspike hated the curiosity-killing drudgery of school. But he had the idea to try programming videogames on an Apple II in the school library. The computer had a Basic interpreter but no hard drive or even a floppy disk to save his code. Instead, he’d retype simple programs again and again from scratch with every reboot, copying in commands from manuals to make shapes fill the screen. Browsing the computer section of a local bookstore, the preteen Marlin­spike found a copy of 2600 magazine, the catechism of the ’90s hacker scene. After his mother bought a cheap desk­top computer with a modem, he used it to trawl bulletin board services, root friends’ computers to make messages appear on their screens, and run a “war-dialer” program overnight, reaching out to distant servers at random.

To a bored middle schooler, it was all a revelation. “You look around and things don’t feel right, but you’ve never been anywhere else and you don’t know what you’re missing,” Marlin­spike says. “The Internet felt like a secret world hidden within this one.”

By his teens, Marlinspike was working after school for a German software company, writing developer tools. After graduating high school—barely—he headed to Silicon Valley in 1999. “I thought it would be like a William Gibson novel,” he says. “Instead it was just office parks and highways.” Jobless and homeless, he spent his first nights in San Francisco sleeping in Alamo Square Park beside his desktop computer.

Eventually, Marlinspike found a programming job at BEA-owned Web­Logic. But almost as soon as he’d broken in to the tech industry, he wanted out, bored by the routine of spending 40 hours a week in front of a keyboard. “I thought, ‘I’m supposed to do this every day for the rest of my life?’” he recalls. “I got interested in experimenting with a way to live that didn’t involve working.”

For the next few years, Marlinspike settled into a Bay Area scene that was, if not cyberpunk, at least punk. He started squatting in abandoned buildings with friends, eventually moving into an old postal service warehouse. He began bumming rides to political protests around the country and uploading free audio books to the web of himself reading anarchist theorists like Emma Goldman.

He took up hitchhiking, then he upgraded his wanderlust to hopping freight trains. And in 2003 he spontaneously decided to learn to sail. He spent a few hundred dollars—all the money he had—on a beat-up 27-foot Catalina and rashly set out alone from San Francisco’s harbor for Mexico, teaching himself by trial and error along the way. The next year, Marlin­spike filmed his own DIY sailing documentary, called Hold Fast. It follows his journey with three friends as they navigate a rehabilitated, leaky sloop called the Pestilence from Florida to the Bahamas, finally ditching the boat in the Dominican Republic.

Even today, Marlinspike describes those reckless adven­tures in the itinerant underground as a kind of peak in his life. “Looking back, I and everyone I knew was looking for that secret world hidden in this one,” he says, repeating the same phrase he’d used to describe the early Internet. “I think we were already there.”

If anything can explain Marlinspike’s impulse for privacy, it may be that time spent off society’s grid: a set of experi­ences that have driven him to protect a less observed way of life. “I think he likes the idea that there is an unknown,” says Trevor Perrin, a security engineer who helped Marlinspike design Signal’s core protocol. “That the world is not a completely surveilled thing.”"



"Beneath its ultrasimple interface, Moxie Marlinspike’s crypto protocol hides a Rube Goldberg machine of automated moving parts. Here’s how it works.

1. When Alice installs an app that uses Marlinspike’s protocol, it generates pairs of numeric sequences known as keys. With each pair, one sequence, known as a public key, will be sent to the app’s server and shared with her contacts. The other, called a private key, is stored on Alice’s phone and is never shared with anyone. The first pair of keys serves as an identity for Alice and never changes. Subsequent pairs will be generated with each message or voice call, and these temporary keys won’t be saved.

2. When Alice contacts her friend Bob, the app combines their public and private keys—both their identity keys and the temporary ones generated for a new message or voice call—to create a secret shared key. The shared key is then used to encrypt and decrypt their messages or calls.

3. The secret shared key changes with each message or call, and old shared keys aren’t stored. That means an eavesdropper who is recording their messages can’t decrypt their older communications even if that spy hacks one of their devices. (Alice and Bob should also periodically delete their message history.)

4. To make sure she’s communicating with Bob and not an impostor, Alice can check Bob’s fingerprint, a shortened version of his public identity key. If that key changes, either because someone is impersonating Bob in a so-called man-in-the-middle attack or simply because he ­reinstalled the app, Alice’s app will display a warning."
moxiemarlinspike  encryption  privacy  security  2016  2600  surveillance  whatsapp  signal  messaging  anarchists  anarchism  openwhispersystems  tylerreinhard  emmagoldman  unschooling  education  learning  autodidacts  internet  web  online  work  economics  life  living  lawenforcement 
august 2016 by robertogreco

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