Alice and Bob

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Alice and Bob, also just A and B, are the standard example users in writing on cryptography, coding theory, communication complexity theory etc. Carol and Dave often join them for protocols that require more than two players.

The most familiar names in network security are neither vendors nor geeks: Try Alice and Bob.[1]

Bruce Schneier extends these [2] with two kinds of attacker:

and several other types of player required in various protocols:

Schneier's extensions seem to be in the process of becoming standard as well.

It is also moderately common to add additional characters as needed for a particular protocol. For example, in discussing a e-commerce system, one might need Matlida the Merchant and Ivan the Issuer of credentials.

[edit] History

Alice and Bob were introduced in the original paper [3] on the RSA algorithm for public key cryptography.

Rivest ... says he came up with Alice and Bob to be able to use "A" and "B" for notation, and that by having one male and one female, the pronouns "he" and "she" could be used in descriptions. Rivest says it is possible that Alice came to mind because he is something of an Alice in Wonderland buff.[1]

The similar name of the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and subsequent TV show appears to be just a coincidence. Rivest denies that there is a connection.

Alice and Bob have an amusing biography on the web.

Now there are hundreds of papers written about Alice and Bob. Over the years Alice and Bob have tried to defraud insurance companies, they've played poker for high stakes by mail, and they've exchanged secret messages over tapped telephones.
If we put together snippets from lots of papers, we get a fascinating picture of their lives. This may be the first time a definitive biography of Alice and Bob has been given. ...
Against all odds, over a noisy telephone line, tapped by the tax authorities and the secret police, Alice will happily attempt, with someone she doesn't trust, whom she cannot hear clearly, and who is probably someone else, to fiddle her tax returns and to organise a coup d'etat, while at the same time minimising the cost of the phone call.
A coding theorist is someone who doesn't think Alice is crazy.[4]

[edit] Other pairs

While Alice and Bob are standard in cryptography and coding theory, other pairs of players are used in other domains.

In interactive proof systems, the prover has unbounded computational ability and is hence associated with Merlin, the powerful wizard. He claims the truth of a statement, and Arthur, the wise king, questions him to verify the claim.

In combinatorial game theory, the characters are often Paul and Carole. The characters were introduced in the solution of the Twenty Questions problem,[5] where "Paul", who asked questions, stood for Paul Erdős and "Carole", who answered them, was an anagram of "oracle". They were further used in certain games in the roles of Pusher and Chooser respectively, and have since been used in various roles.[6]

In English grammar discussions, notably in Noam Chomsky's writings, John and Mary are often used.

[edit] References

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