Cute Cryptography Stories posted October 2020
I have long felt that, because it was posed as a cute problem about philosophers seated around a table, Dijkstra's dining philosopher's problem received much more attention than it deserves. (For example, it has probably received more attention in the theory community than the readers/writers problem, which illustrates the same principles and has much more practical importance.) I believed that the problem introduced in  was very important and deserved the attention of computer scientists. The popularity of the dining philosophers problem taught me that the best way to attract attention to a problem is to present it in terms of a story.
What are all these cute stories in cryptography?
- Alice and Bob
For our scenarios we suppose that A and B (also known as Alice and Bob) are two users of a public-key cryptosystem.
- Dining cryptographers
Three cryptographers are sitting down to dinner at their favorite three-star restaurant. Their waiter informs them that arrangements have been made with the maitre d'hotel for the bill to be paid anonymously. One of the cryptographers might be paying for the dinner, or it might have been NSA (U.S. National Security Agency). The three cryptographers respect each other's right to make an anonymous payment, but they wonder if NSA is paying.
- The fully homomorphic dragon
One night, Alice dreams of immense riches, caverns piled high with silver, gold and diamonds. Then, a giant dragon devours the riches and begins to eat its own tail! She awakes with a feeling of peace. As she tries to make sense of her dream, she realizes that she has the solution to her problem.
- The Byzantine Generals Problem
We imagine that several divisions of the Byzantine army are camped outside an enemy city, each division commanded by its own general. The generals can communicate with one another only by messenger. After observing the enemy, they must decide upon a common plan of action. However, some of the generals may be traitors, trying to prevent the loyal generals from reaching agreement.
- The Zero-Knowledge Cave
- Mental Poker
Once there were two “mental chess ” experts who had become tired of their pastime. “Let’s play ‘Mental Poker, ‘for variety” suggested one. “Sure” said the other. “Just let me deal!”
- The Birthday Attack
In probability theory, the birthday problem or birthday paradox concerns the probability that, in a set of n randomly chosen people, some pair of them will have the same birthday. By the pigeonhole principle, the probability reaches 100% when the number of people reaches 367 (since there are only 366 possible birthdays, including February 29). However, 99.9% probability is reached with just 70 people, and 50% probability with 23 people.
- Yao's millionaire problem
Two millionaires wish to know who is richer; however, they do not want to find out inadvertently any additional information about each other’s wealth. How can they carry out such a conversation?
- Coin Flipping by Phone
Alice and Bob want to flip a coin by telephone. (They have just divorced, live in different cities, want to decide who gets the car.) Bob would not like to tell Alice HEADS and hear Alice (at the other end of the line) say "Here goes... I'm flipping the coin... You lost!"
Do you know of any other story?