SATYAKAM GOSWAMI SAT IN A CONFERENCE HALL in the Institute of Informatics & Communication in Delhi University’s South Campus, furiously typing code into his laptop. He typed the string “/var/log/tor#”, into a Linux terminal, then turned to me and said, “I am one step away, man.” It was around midnight on a muggy July Saturday, and Goswami had been here for six hours. He resumed typing—and cursing under his breath in Telugu as he realised that the online instructions he was following weren’t helping.
Around him, the room bustled with the activity of around 25 other people, all participants at a Cryptoparty, a cryptography event at which programmers and non-programmers meet to share information and expertise on tools that can help thwart government spying.
Goswami was one of the organisers of the event, which was led by Bernadette Längle, a German ‘hacktivist’ who is a member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Europe’s largest association of hackers. Längle was one of the organisers of the CCC’s Chaos Communication Congress in 2012, an international hackers’ meet held in Hamburg that year. While processing participant applications for the Congress, she came across a group that wanted to organise what they called a “Cryptoparty” at the meet. “I thought Cryptoparty would be a bunch of guys coming together, learning crypto and having a party,” she told me. Only at the event did she realise that Cryptoparties are rather more political affairs, at which participants experiment with ways of combating governmental intrusions into privacy and freedom.