Cryptographers Aren’t Happy With How You’re Using the Word ‘Crypto’

Cryptographers are upset that "crypto" sometimes now refers to cryptocurrency, reports the Guardian: This lexical shift has weighed heavily on cryptographers, who, over the past few years, have repeated the rallying cry "Crypto means cryptography" on social media. T-shirts and hoodies trumpet the phrase and variations on it; there's a website dedicated solely to clarifying the issue. "'Crypto' for decades has been used as shorthand and as a prefix for things related to cryptography," said Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado Law School and creator of the pro-cryptography T-shirts, which have become a hit at conferences. "In fact, in the term cryptocurrency, the prefix crypto refers back to cryptography...." [T]here remains an internecine feud among the tech savvy about the word. As Parker Higgins of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, who has spent years involved in cryptography activism, pointed out, the cryptography crowd is by nature deeply invested in precision — after all, designing and cracking codes is an endeavor in which, if you get things "a little wrong, it can blow the whole thing up...." "Strong cryptography is a cornerstone of the way that people talk about privacy and security, and it has been under attack for decades" by governments, law enforcement, and "all sorts of bad actors", Higgins said. For its defenders, confusion over terminology creates yet another challenge. Stepanovich acknowledged the challenge of opposing the trend, but said the weight of history is on her side. "The study of crypto has been around for ever," she said. "The most famous code is known as the Caesar cipher, referring to Julius Caesar. This is not new." Cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is a relatively recent development, and she is not ready to concede to "a concept that may or may not survive government regulation".

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