back to article 'Replace crypto-couple Alice and Bob with Sita and Rama'

A computer scientist has come up with a proposal to replace cryptography's Alice and Bob with characters from Hindu mythology. For decades, techniques to encrypt and decrypt communications have been explained using two imaginary characters, Alice and Bob, and potential eavesdropper Eve. Alice sends a message to Bob, and Eve is …

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WTF?

Is this what they term a no news day story?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

No, something perfectly light for a wet Monday morning. I am immediately envious of you if your brain is already engaged and firing all pistons before 10am.

C.

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FAIL

Why?

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

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slight translation error

The word "badmash" is not "bad man" but usually means a fornicator (when used in context) or generally very evil person. It's quite an insult to say it to someone.

Also, I see no reason for changing it. Alice and Bob work fine.

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Coat

Re: slight translation error

But the introduction of some fornication would certainly liven things up a bit.

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Oh FFS!

Just STFU and go back into whatever cave you came from. The world is not India, nor the US, but if something has worked for 40+ years, just STFU and live with it.

Damnit I hate crap like this.

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Re: Oh FFS!

Agreed. If he wants to suggest the conventional terms for a field of knowledge, he should be first to codify it.

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Gold badge

@Crowley

And there, in fact, you have identified a principle that has been applied to far more fields of knowledge than Alice and Bob have ever been involved with, and which has gone largely unchallenged for a good deal longer than 40 years.

Can we have Brontosaurus back?

Can we redefine the electron to be positive?

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Silver badge

Longer is better

We're told that long passwords are easier to forget better than short ones. And that longer crypto keys are better than short ones.

So it follows that Alice and Bob should be replaced with better, or at least longer, name. to promote this philosophy. I would suggest that in the spirit of pointless changes the following are adopted henceforth:

Anglithorpianositachinquate and Hatmaguptafratarinagarosterlous

and possibly Opfogjrbskfeepnepnkaseyoinnbretn for the interloper

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Devil

Re: Longer is better

Shouldn't there be numerics and case changes in there, just to make it roll off of the tongue better?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Longer is better

And they all live in that place in Wales.

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Anonymous Coward

The real villain of the piece

Maybe we could choose Kali to represent Microsoft? Ballmer certainly has the voice for it.

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Trollface

Re: The real villain of the piece

Tell us how Microsoft do evil crypto, Tom. If you could include instances to demonstrate how it's objectively more evil than Oracle's, Google's, Apple's or IBM's, that would help your case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The real villain of the piece

Tell us how Microsoft do evil crypto, Tom.

Well, if their crypto is anything like their GUID generators, then he may have a point.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The real villain of the piece

"Tell us how Microsoft do evil crypto, Tom".

I shouldn't think they do. The whole idea is silly.

What I meant was that Windows, from a security point of view, reminds me strongly of the Kali Yuga. Utter disorder, a breakdown of law and custom, nothing can be relied upon...

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A lot of hostility here

But actually, I think it's rather nice. Finding an aspect of mythology (anyone's) that fits a modern discipline so well is pretty cool.

Not that I think anything will change but it would make the mental images a lot richer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A lot of hostility here

I think that the less mythology that we have in reality is better. Just look at the wars and deaths throughout the ages that are happening because of imaginary friends in the sky.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: A lot of hostility here

Oh, indeed! Take Stalin -- thirty million dead at a stingy estimate, and all in the name of that nasty ol' God! A more staunch believer it would be impossible to find.

Or perhaps, if we're going to talk about it from a religious point of view, we'll need to concede that soi-disant atheism has racked up a quite impressive score of its own over the years -- rather more than any of the religions have been managing lately, in fact, Islam and all -- and, in light of this perhaps unpalatable but certainly incontrovertible fact, godly vs. godless appears to be a distinction without a difference? That what one finds atop a mountain of skulls is perhaps not the moral high ground?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A lot of hostility here

Aaron Em spluttered: "Take Stalin -- thirty million dead at a stingy estimate, and all in the name of that nasty ol' God"

I hate to break it to you but Stalin was an atheist. This is a Big Clue as to why Catholics have a big downer on communists.

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Look who hasn't had his coffee yet

And silly me for expecting that a mere full paragraph of explaining the joke would suffice. What can I have been thinking?

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@Michelle Knight

I don't see any reason to throw away a good story just because it's fiction.

It's a much better story than poor old Alice and Bob ever managed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A lot of hostility here

I hate to break it to you but Stalin was an atheist.

Indeed. He was even trained as a priest. Oh ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Michelle Knight

You obviously don't know the original Alice and Bob, the swingers group they belonged to (hence the need for crypto), and why Eve is always trying to intercept their messages (she secretly has the hots for both of them but doesn't get invited to the same parties they do).

It's all explained in that well-known cryptography textbook by E L James, Alice and Bob Get Down and Dirty with Fiona, George, Harriet and Eighteen Others.

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Mushroom

Re: A lot of hostility here

@AC at 11:52 GMT

Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili a.k.a. Stalin HAD a religion

after he lost his faith at the Tiflis seminary in 1896: Marxism.

He always has seen himself as special and deified himself

with unimaginable consequences.

Vid. "Young Stalin" by Simon S. Montefiore, page 66.

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No argument here, mate

but it always riles the commies to point out the religious nature of Marxism, so I left it out.

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Tim

Re: A lot of hostility here

Ugh. This place is turning into Reddit.

Back on topic. My employer, a US-based software company, has 45 developers, of which 40 are either Indian or Pakistani. I welcome anything that brings a cultural perspective to IT that isn't white, male and western, especially if it comes from a large and growing chunk of the industry's people. I'm no bleeding-heart multi-culti Grauniad reader; I'm just bored of sci-fi and sports analogies. Sita and Rama sound cool. I didn't know anything about them until now, and I'm pleased I've learned something.

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Re: A lot of hostility here

Re: "... godly vs. godless appears to be a distinction without a difference"

While I'd agree homo sapiens don't require a religious framework to justify the perpetration of evil acts, is it not relatively rare for someone to do evil /in the name of/ atheism? For instance, of all those involved in preaching the sins of contraceptive use in AIDS-plagued sub-Saharan Africa, are there any likely to be doing so on the basis of a lack of belief in a deity?

On the Stalin question in particular, Christopher Hitchens had voiced a detailed reply:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyIf2F_NPXM#t=43s

"Until 1917, millions of Russians were taught for hundreds of years that the Tsar is the head of the church. Which he was, the Russian Orthodox Church. That the leader of the country should be something a little more than human, not a god but he's a little more than, -- he's not quite divine but he's a Holy Father.

If you're Joseph Stalin, you shouldn't be in the dictatorship business if you don't know how to exploit an inheritance like that: millions of credulous, servile people. And what does he do? Lysenko's biology, miracles.

We can have three harvests a year if we believe in Lysenko's biology. Inquisition, heresy hunt, orthodoxy, everything comes from the top and must be thanked for and groveled for, a complete replication of the preceding theocracy.

For your arguments to have any force at all, you'd have to point to a society that adopted the teachings of Lucretius, Spinoza, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Albert Einstein, and then fell into famine, dictatorship, torture, and genocide. And you won't, I think, be able to point to such. That's what you'd need for a level playing field."

(Interviewer: You truly wish to blame the crimes of Joseph Stalin on Christianity?)

"No, I was very careful to say, Stalin is gifted a legacy of backwardness, servility, and incredulity inculcated by Christianity and he replicates the conditions of political theocracy and he keeps the church in his corner all throughout the war and throughout the collectivization. Look it up. The church had to split on the question. Those who didn't like it had to leave for America.

And the religious mentality is very clearly shown in the totalitarian mass movements of leader worship and the Fuhrer Princip and their heresy hunts and proclamations of miracles. Yes, it's an allotropic form of the same thing."

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Re: A lot of hostility here

"No true Scotsman..."

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FAIL

Re: A lot of hostility here

Right. Now that things have settled down ...

First, the position we start from. The old joke of the couple asking directions, "Well, if I was you, I wouldn't be starting from here..." is a good analogy. We've got what we've got. It isn't a brilliant start, but...

...as I've said before in other arenas and I say it again now, if any religion had any proof of any of its claims then the world would be a different place ... so why should we tollerate the injection of anything else that further looses direction.

Why the heck should one set of cultural claptrap simply be replaced by another set of cultural claptrap. Let's take things forward on a footing which is based in fact ... heck if you want analogies how about some stars, their agents and the nasty press hackers.

Although I've nothing against religion and culture per-se, I'll get very hostile at anyones attempts to inject their culture, religion, lifestyle, etc. in to MY life, and that is what is happening.

There. I said it. Spade firmly called a shovel. Flame suit donned. Le'mme havit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A lot of hostility here

...and let me further qualify that ... if there had been a similar situation in any other country, then I'd be open to that as well ... when I'm talking about culture I'm not talking about factual or historical events that made an impact ... but rather fictional things or stuff that multiple cultures would find offensive ... things that wouldn't cross the international borders very well. And we've had enough examples of that over the last few years.

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Flame

@ Michelle Knight

Oh, do get down from your pulpit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Michelle Knight

1) I didn't force you to read what I've written.

2) If I don't explain myself properly then someone can misconstrue what I'm saying and an argument can break out that takes away from the subject.

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Anonymous Coward

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Thought it was going to be about an Indian re-make of the 1969 film.

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Flame

Has it occurred

to his employer that Dr S. Parthasarathy might have too much time on his hands?

Even if replacing Alice, Bob and Eve makes sense from his point of view: They're freaking placeholders!

It's like me proposing to replace the names of directories bin, sys and usr with Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu (a hill in New Zealand), Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (a town in Wales) and Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (a lake in Mass./USA)

Someone will probably find a story to incorporate these three without the need of forest-incarcerated deities and fornicating fiends.

Next proposal will be to replace the NATO phonetic alphabet with Amato (for A), Bemato (for B), Cemato (for C) and so on past Omato (for O) and Paradeiser (Austrian for Tomato [so that you don't confuse it with the actual fruit]) all the way to Zeemato (guess what*...).

Zeemato is for X, Y, Z, ß, and ø. Got you there. Hah!

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He's probably tenured

In which case, having too much time on his hands is practically his job description -- that, and publishing his grad students' research with his name on it.

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Boffin

Mythology is optional

Sir,

Why would one want to introduce religion or mythodology (which led to religion) into a scientific subject?

One might just as well go ahead and say: Sender: God, Receiver: Jesus, Eavesdropper: Maria Magdalena...

As with so many topics in life: Religion / mythodology should stay out of it.

Just my two pennies,

Guus

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Re: Mythology is optional

Be a lot more sensible to say, for example, Adam and Eve, with Lilith as the amusingly malapropos "man in the middle". Tricky, making fun of something you've never bothered to understand.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Adam and Eve

Surely it would be that horrible old guy, God, who would be the interloper?

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Anonymous Coward

Oh for heaven's sake...

Yes, good idea… let’s just tear up 34 years of crypto literature on a whim and rename everything because you want to promote your own nation’s fairy stories.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh for heaven's sake...

Yes, but there's no standard involved, is there? Nothing in stone?

Surely any author, lecturer or teacher is perfectly free to make up their own names and their own stories to illustrate the concepts. If Dr P thinks its a good idea to suggest that any particular culture or country uses names that are familiar within that culture or country, then he's free to suggest that. The other 20% of India's population might want to come up with theirs, the Chinese with theirs, etc etc.

The message is simple: when teaching, use stuff that is familiar to your students.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh for heaven's sake...

Of course - making your students study an already complex subject where you've changed the names of the entities on a personal whim from all those in the standard texts is just bound to simplify their lives...

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Pint

I'm sure there is room in the world for Alice, Bob, Sita AND Rama. The world is full of cultural differences. You say pot-ate-oh, I say pot-art-oh, etc. I''ll continue to use Alice and Bob in my circles as I presume most of my western colleagues will too. If other parts of the world use names they're more comfortable with, thats up to them. We will live.

I know our American cousins continue to miss the U from colour and call the letter Z "Zee" when it is obviously "Zed". But we tollerate their wacky ways. We can live with reading "Alice" when we see "Sita", even if I do find it odd when messages are no longer sent from A to B but S to R.

Beer, because differences of opinion are often resolved by talking it over with a pint.

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By the way, I actually say "Pot-ate-oh". Important point, needed clearing up.

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Happy

I know our American cousins continue to miss the U from colour and call the letter Z "Zee" when it is obviously "Zed". But we tollerate their wacky ways.

Thanks for that. By the way, we also miss out that second L in "tollerate".

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Thumb Up

You're welcome! Upvoted in the spirit of world peace. May we toller... toler... err... abide each others spelling mistakes for ever more!

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Anonymous Coward

I think he meant...

I think he meant to type "trollerate".

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WTF?

Tuition Fees Anyone?

If this isn't a first class advert for exorbitant university tuition fees, nothing is.

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Anonymous Coward

I propose to replace Dr S. Parthasarathy with a turnip.

Actually I don't, it would be a waste of a perfectly good turnip.

If they *must* be replaced - Lister, Kryton, and Rimmer.

I know we might need US support on this, so I could live with Lister Jr, Kryton Snr, and Rimmer Jr the Third

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Silver badge
Joke

Sam wants to send a message to Bradley but it's intercepted by Assange.

or

Darren wants to send a message to Sharon but FaceBook steal it.

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