Crypto Summit

Crypto Summit 2015 Overview

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Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy

Photo Credit - Jack Conroy


Top government officials, including the heads of the NSA and the FBI, have called for policy and technology experts to “start a conversation” on the viability of different proposals to allow government access to otherwise private conversations. Such calls ignored two decades of discussions over back doors, key escrow, and encryption mandates, since the “Crypto Wars” in the ‘90s. More recently, both “sides” of the current debate have been talking past each other.

At the Crypto Summit, we dug into the hard questions about the use of cryptography, moving beyond talking points to lay the groundwork for real-world solutions. We will shortly publish the outcomes from the summit, including details about the next steps.

If you’re new to Access and would like to stay updated on our issues and events, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter, Access Express.

The second part of Crypto Summit will be at RightsCon Silicon Valley 2016. Stay tuned for more information.

Thank you for joining us!

The Crypto Summit was a daylong debate about cryptography, engaging crypto war veterans, academics, corporate and government representatives, technologists, experts, and ordinary internet users. Together, we explored the history of encryption policy, the technology behind encryption, the legal landscape, and how experts envision the future based on the possible outcomes from the current debate. We also opened up the conversation to examine the different ways encryption is actually deployed and used. While our focus was on the current and proposed laws and policies in the United States, we also addressed the global debate, including the discussions happening in the UK, China, and elsewhere, and explored how domestic policies impact people internationally.

We’re grateful to our sponsors for helping to make the Crypto Summit a success.


8:00-8:30 Coffee and Registration
8:30-8:40 Welcome and Opening Remarks
8:40-9:55 Crypto History: Diagramming the Crypto Wars Through the Present

Hosted by Amie Stepanovich (Access)

Speakers include:

  • Alan Davidson (U.S. Department of Commerce)
  • Brian LaMacchia (Microsoft)
  • Michael Nelson (CloudFlare; formerly White House Office of Science and Technology Policy)
  • Marc Rotenberg (EPIC)
  • Emery Simon (BSA)
  • Peter Swire (Georgia Tech University; formerly the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies)
  • Melanie Teplinsky (American University's Washington College of Law; CrowdStrike, Inc. [Advisory Board])
9:55-10:05 10-Minute Break
10:05-11:20 Where Does Encryption Happen?

Hosted by Jamie Tomasello (Access)

Speakers include:

  • Kimber Dowsett (18f)
  • Allan Friedman (U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration)
  • Dlshad Othman (Information Safety & Capacity Project)
  • Nick Sullivan (CloudFlare)
11:20-11:25 Speed Presentation: The Grassroots Response - What Groups are Doing to Prevent Back Doors
  • Daniel Schuman (Demand Progress)
11:25-11:30 Speed Presentation: Supporting Encryption in the Developing World
  • Lindsay Beck (Open Technology Fund)
11:30-11:40 Presentation: Encryption Policy and its Impact on the Future of the Global Internet
  • Raman Jit Singh Chima (Access)
11:40-12:40 Lunch
12:40-12:45 Reconvene
  • Brett Solomon (Access)
12:45-2:00 What is the Law and What Should it Be?

Hosted by Amie Stepanovich (Access)

Speakers include:

  • Nate Cardozo (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
  • Carrie Cordero (Georgetown University Law Center; formerly U.S. Department of Justice)
  • Jamil Jaffer (George Mason University Law School)
  • Sarah McKune (Citizen Lab)
2:00-2:05 Speed Presentation: Can Technology Make the Internet Secure?
  • Heather West (CloudFlare)
2:05-2:10 Speed Presentation: The Little Internet Engines that Could
  • Christian Dawson (ServInt)
2:10-2:15 5-Minute Break
2:15-3:30 Can Encryption Save Us?

Hosted by Jamie Tomasello (Access)

Speakers include:

  • Jochai Ben-Avie (Mozilla)
  • David Bitkower (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • Matt Blaze (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Siobhan Gorman (Brunswick Group)
  • Holmes Wilson (Fight for the Future)
3:30-4:15 Closing Keynotes

  • David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (United Nations)
    Introduced by Drew Mitnick (Access)

  • Representative Zoe Lofgren (U.S. Congress)
    Introduced by Harley Geiger (Center for Democracy and Technology)

4:15-6:00 Cocktails and Tales

Moderated by Andrew Crocker (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

A Coded Future: Flash Fiction Submissions

We asked for “flash fiction” submissions at the Summit. Contestants followed the prompt below, and we chose a few of the best short stories to be published on the Access website and read during our cocktail reception.

Prompt: On July 16, 2015, one country’s government makes headlines by promulgating a measure that specifically relates to the general public’s access to encryption tools and technologies. The measure specifically [restricts/promotes] the [development/use/promulgation] of cryptography.10-100 years later, the world is now facing the fallout from that decision in an unexpected way. What happens next?

Do Know Evil

by Jake Laperruque

The following message was uploaded onto Reddit, HackerNews and multiple torrent sites on April 1, 2025:

Dear Contoso Email Users,

This is the GrandSons of Liberty, better known as the haters who say hacks before tax to keep the Internet free and awesome.

Congratulations! All 23,000,000 of you have been severely pwnd. We have your passwords, account info, and emails. We wanted to tell you this because America needs to stop putting holes in our stuff.

America used to build stuff. Now we just build stuff with holes in it. Swiss cheese is supposed to have holes. American cheese and American email shouldn't have holes.

Our government makes Contoso and all our other wimpy companies put holes in their security. These old dummies want to go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and pretend there’s no problem.

Well we want to show you there is a problem. We don’t say “meh.” We say Do Know Evil.

Find what’s wrong and fix it, because soon the Chinese military and Russia mafia will find it too. We found it for all you Contoso fools and pwnd you, and soon we’ll pwn everyone else too.

So here’s a corporate memo for you to download showing that Contoso put the hole we used to hack into their systems on purpose because stoopid people in our government made them.

And here is a list of accounts of idiots who used the password “password” (use a real password idiots!)

Here are some inappropriate emails from three stoopid politicians who love the ULTRA Act and love letting the Chinese hack us.

Stop putting holes in our stuff, or in one week we’ll publish the source code on how to break in to Contoso email and everyone else can pwn you too.

Happy Friday dummies,

The GrandSons of Liberty


by Dakota Root

There’s the door and here’s my new passport. I look over the heads of two hundred comrades, dear darling amigos of the New Eastern Order. It’s D Day. The big ol’ time to DECIDE. Capitol letter word because on the other side of the door is an old-fashioned train waiting to take any takers west to the shining sea of Cali. Once one of the 50 states, Cali is now capital outpost of the Silicon Valley Experiment.

Herald me Jimmy. Surname? As if that’s important. I’ve got an identification document with a new name in my hands. My thumb presses over the black letters. Jack Duffie. If I pick up this passport, my numbers will disappear faster than the door will close behind me. The East will delete me right out of the database, and poof, bye bye Jimmy. Without my data double what will I be? No worker’s ID, no social security, no credit card, no networking profile.

Not many Easters take the train through the emptiness. It’s been a long time since the crypto split, but with the signals block still strong, Easters like me don’t get much information. All we have to help us choose is what we see in front of us. Exhibit one and only: Westers never live long after they cross the crypto border. Westers always post a few improper words after coming into our Faraday Cage. Then BOOM, BANG they’re wanted by the Censor. There’s nothing like execution to take away incentives.

I stand up and throw the passport straight into the bin, walking out with a swaggering step. The potential, the hypothetical, and the now impossible Jack Duffie is dead. You have one chance to get out of the cage, but hey, in my humble opinion the other side could be worse.

Alice and Bob in Love

by Kevin Bankston

They knew it was real when they exchanged PGP keys and the chain of trust between them was reduced to a single, unbreakable link — an encrypted connection that made them outlaws in love, in more ways than one.

Alice and Bob weren’t their real names, of course. The pseudonyms were not only a joke but also a necessity here in Islamabad, when using banned tech to communicate with a lover inconveniently married to another.

The bans didn’t start in Pakistan, though. Ironically, they started in the West, when he was studying computer science at Cambridge and learning all about Alice, and Bob, and Eve the eavesdropper, and Mallory the malicious attacker, and Oscar the opponent — the whole cast of cryptographic characters.

One would’ve thought that destroying the Internet as we knew it would take more than two gunmen attacking a newspaper office, but France and England and America fed off of each others’ fears in a vicious accelerating cycle. The Crypto Wars of the 2010s ended very differently from those of the 1990s as the three nations joined together to outlaw end-to-end encryption tools, then began breeding digital bloodhounds and building virtual borders to find and block them. China followed, then the world. From global Internet to countless splinternets in less than a decade.

Of course, it didn’t save them. As the economy crumbled along with the Internet, the Sons of ISIL successfully staged devastating attacks in the capitals of the West. They conspired with pen and paper, PGP and thumb drives, and innocent-looking emails encoded with simple ciphers the filters couldn’t catch — ciphers less sophisticated than those used by America’s own founding revolutionaries.

Alice and Bob used the same techniques to foster their own, more intimate conspiracy.

Love, like terror, always finds a way.

As does open source software.

Time Bomb

by John Prime

Lucy worked furiously. Every time a car stopped outside her building, she was sure it was them. She needed to get that paper published, and she need to do it fast, or she wasn’t going to be around to collect the $100 million. There were too many who wanted to stop the inevitable. Activists. Industries. Governments. Scary governments.

The world was about to change in a big way, and a lot of people weren’t going to like it.

Most of the world had forgotten about the Challenge. Few were even doing such research. It was set up early in the century—2015, when the security agencies saw encryption as a threat. Some tried to pass laws—to regulate math. But cannier minds just set up the Challenge. If you can’t stop encryption, destroy it.

It was such a little thing, in a way. A computer could multiply fifty-digit numbers together in a flash. But give someone the result, and ask them to reverse the process—to figure out the factors that had produced it? That could take thousands of years, even with all the world’s computers. All the world’s cryptography was based on that simple fact. A century of human culture was based on that simple fact.

Now she had discovered a way to do it.

Nobody had ever rescinded the Challenge—in its unmet-ness, it actually served as a standing reminder that encryption worked. But that confidence was about to come tumbling down, and nobody was happy about it, least of all the very government that had set it up.

Just knowing it could be done would change the world. These people couldn’t just keep the actual algorithm to themselves—they’d have to keep its very existence secret. Fat chance—but she knew they would try. And that’s what worried her.