Friday, May 28, 2010

Digital Signature

A story from my cousin Youson (whether true or not I leave up to you):

Election day in one of the barangays of Negros Oriental saw the board of inspectors, the poll monitors, the watchdogs, and various concerned citizens caught in a tizzy.  Well past seven o'clock, when voting was supposed to start, and they found that, because of the rules, they couldn't.

"The rules say it needs the digital signature of the BEI," cried one of the watchers. "We can't break the rules!"

"Where do you sign in your digital signature?"  cried another.  "They didn't teach us that in the briefing!"

It seemed that they had reached an impasse.  No one could say with any certainty what a digital signature was.  Outside the voters began to get restless.

A crafty lawyer from the COMELEC arrived on the scene.  He heard everyone's concerns, and after some thought, he said: "You're all worried for nothing.  It's really very simple."  The crowd pressed in to hear his explanation.

"Do you know what a signature is?" he asked.

"Yes!" they all chorused.

"Good," said the lawyer.  He held up his thumb.  "And do you know what this is?"

"It's your thumb," someone ventured.

"This is a digit," said the lawyer. "Am I right?"

"Yes! yes!" several people said.

"Therefore...this is my digital signature!" concluded the lawyer.

The crowd broke out into cheers.  "Of course!" "So obvious!" "Why didn't we think of that?"  And with that, the voting finally began.

(The lawyer's explanation involves verbal casuistry and, in technical terms, is wrong.  However, it is comprehensible and satisfactory to the layman's mind.  I cannot fault its effectiveness in calming the collective anxiety.

(Now, I know what a digital signature is.  You say you want to know?  Very well, think of two large prime numbers which would be very difficult to factor.  You take the product of these numbers to create a digital hash which would then applied to a message in order to produce an encrypted digest...

(...hello?....hello?....are you awake?...

(Sigh.  Do you see this thumb?  This is a digit....)

1 comment:

  1. Congress can have my middle finger as my "digital signature".