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Obfuscation

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Title: Obfuscation  
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Subject: Ambiguity, Propaganda techniques, History of sociology, Jscrambler, Haystack (software)
Collection: Ambiguity, English Phrases, Human Behavior, Obfuscation
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Obfuscation

Obfuscation is the obscuring of intended meaning in communication, making the message confusing, willfully ambiguous, or harder to understand. It may be intentional or unintentional (although the former is usually connoted) and may result from circumlocution (yielding wordiness) or from use of jargon or even argot (yielding economy of words but excluding outsiders from the communicative value). Unintended obfuscation in expository writing is usually a natural trait of early drafts in the writing process, when the composition is not yet advanced, and it can be improved with critical thinking and revising, either by the writer or by another person with sufficient reading comprehension and editing skills.

The name comes from Latin obfuscatio, from obfuscāre ("to darken"). Obfustication is a common variant of the name, especially in British English. Synonyms include beclouding and abstrusity. Obscurantism is intentional obscurity, whether by withholding communication, obfuscating it, or both.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Eschew obfuscation 2
  • White box cryptography 3
  • Network security 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Background

Obfuscation may be used for many purposes. Doctors have been accused of using jargon to conceal unpleasant facts from a patient; American author Michael Crichton claimed that medical writing is a "highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader".[1] B. F. Skinner, noted psychologist, commented on medical notation as a form of multiple audience control, which allows the doctor to communicate to the pharmacist things which might be opposed by the patient if they could understand it.[2]

Eschew obfuscation

"Eschew obfuscation", also stated as "eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation", is a humorous fumblerule used by English teachers and professors when lecturing about proper writing techniques. Literally, the phrase means "avoid being unclear" or "avoid being unclear, support being clear", but the use of relatively uncommon words causes confusion in much of the audience (those lacking the vocabulary), making the statement an example of irony, and more precisely a heterological phrase. The phrase has appeared in print at least as early as 1959, when it was used as a section heading in a NASA document.[3]

An earlier similar phrase appears in Mark Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses,[4] where he lists rule fourteen of good writing as "eschew surplusage".

The philosopher Paul Grice used the phrase in the "Maxim of Manner", one of the Gricean maxims.

White box cryptography

In white-box cryptography, obfuscation refers to the protection of cryptographic keys from extraction when they are under the control of the adversary, e.g., as part of a DRM scheme.

Network security

In network security, obfuscation refers to methods used to obscure an attack payload from inspection by network protection systems.

See also

References

  1. ^ Appendix 25 - Medspeak
  2. ^ Skinner, B.F. (1957) Verbal Behavior p.232
  3. ^ United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Technical Memorandum (1959), p. 171.
  4. ^ Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895)

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