Language / Security/identity · 31 Dec 2010

Talking about security that “assumes DNS holds”

In discussions of economics, a predictive statement is often accompanied by the qualifier ceteris paribus, or, roughly, “other things being equal”, in order to compare apples fairly to apples. In discussions of Internet security, more and more I hear, and have occasion to use, a qualifier like “assuming DNS holds”. For a while, I used a stock formulation that went like “assuming DNSSEC or no cache poisoning”.

An awful lot rides on getting to the domain you think you’re getting to; it’s a basic ingredient in many web protocols. It lets you do things like treat unsigned metadata from a known-good domain as sufficient for lightweight use cases. And being clear about this assumption lets you compare solutions on their other merits.

UMAnitarian Joseph Holsten and I tried to cook up a pseudo-Latin equivalent for the economics phrase: ceteris nomina indubia, hoping to translate it roughly to “assuming non-doubtful names”.

But now I realize the first word isn’t right (ceteris is the “other things” part, like in et cetera), and we need something in the vindicatum or sumo category. Or we could just leave that part out, since “ceteris paribus” doesn’t have the “assume” part either. Any Latin scholars want to opine?

By the way, Pushing String has hit its sixth blogiversary. Thanks for sticking around!