An update on our contest

Update 11/26/11: You can download all of these symbols in PDF and high-res PNG here.

A couple of weeks ago I sang the praises of the AIGA Symbol Signs package. I think it’s a great way to get nice looking presentations and diagrams, especially if you’re as graphically challenged as I am. (H/t goes to Thomas Ptacek for introducing me to it.)

The one thing Symbol Signs lacks is a good symbol for the Adversary. I’ve been using the diapered baby. Thomas likes the Martini glass. And yet both of these are really hacks. We can do better.

Thus I proposed a contest: $200 to the person who could come up with a new AIGA-consistent symbol to use for the adversary. Honestly, I kind of figured I’d never have to shell out. So it’s with pride and some financial trepidation that I today present not one, but two fantastic entries. The first, really a collection of adversaries, comes from my good friend Sam Small:

I particularly like that he provided me with the adversaries in both sexes. In my teaching I’ve been making a concerted effort to provide equal time to both female adversaries. I find that too many male (and even female!) cryptographers implicitly relate adversarial behavior to the male gender. (Apparently the whole Eve thing is just a figleaf.) But this isn’t fair. Women can be attackers too!

Also, I like the devil baby.

Our second entry comes straight from Thomas Ptacek himself. He only has one proposal, but what he lacks in quantity he makes up for in sinisterness:

And so here we are. I’m not quite sure who the winner is — it’ll take some thinking — but I can tell you that thanks to Sam and Thomas the security community is better off today than we were a few weeks ago.

As soon as I have time (this weekend) I’ll post both of these adversaries in downloadable PDF form. I urge you to use them frequently, and to use them wisely.

On symbol signs, the adversary, and announcing a contest

Update 11/26/2011: I’ve had two excellent responses to my challenge. You can see them all on this page.

A couple of people have asked me about the symbols that I use to illustrate protocol diagrams. Let me first say that I claim no particular credit or blame for this style; all of that goes to Thomas Ptacek.

These symbols are part of the AIGA Symbol Signs package, a collection of freely downloadable stencils for the standard international symbols. They’re wonderful for someone as graphically challenged as I am. You can download a stencil set for Omnigraffle, or get the EPS templates from the AIGA site.

As Thomas points out, there’s all kinds of useful security stuff in them: the international symbols for Alice and Bob, the passport agent and keys, and some less-useful things like pictures of ships and planes. (Though even these turned out to be useful once, when I reviewed a security system for a cruise ship.)

However, I think what prompts questions is not Symbol Signs, but rather, it’s the symbol I’ve been using to represent the adversary. Some people seem to think the baby is an odd choice. (My guess is that these people simply don’t have one.)

However you feel about my choices, I think we can all agree that there’s a tremendous need for better design style in scientific presentations. It’s 2011, and Comic Sans + Microsoft clip art no longer cuts the mustard.

Announcing a contest. In order to do my small part to improve the appearance of security presentations, and to resolve this baby-as-adversary issue, I have decided to offer a whopping $200 (plus fame and glory) to any artist, or person of artistic bent, who can come up with a better AIGA-style symbol for the adversary, and/or other security-related symbols if they’re exceptional. This is a one-time prize, and will be offered to a single winner of my choice. I realize this isn’t a whole ton of money, but if I like the result I promise I’ll do my level best to praise your talents far and wide.