cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Create Post

Day 12 - Obfuscate

Level 14

Obfuscate – to make less clear.

Love the word! It’s fun to say. Now there may be some negative connotations with this word, especially in contemporary times. Alternative facts, cell phone bills, my kids’ response to “what homework do you have to do tonight?” and anything coming out of congress comes to mind as having some aspects of obfuscation to them. However, let’s invoke the holiday spirit and be positive. Making things less clear can be a good thing. Especially when it comes to data.

Encryption isn’t the only way to obfuscate data. Obfuscation is a word I learned near the beginning of my IT tenure. It was used in conjunction with redacting (another great word) sensitive data when it leaves production to be replicated to another environment. See, I worked at a company that primarily did D.O.D. type contracts, so we’d get audited on such things. Too often, we don’t think about all of the attack vectors those that want our data can take in this pursuit. Think about all of the security breaches we’ve had lately. I’m not saying they successfully got data that was not obfuscated. I am saying that it should be a tool at your disposal in your toolbox for protecting data.

I dare you to use it in normal conversation while at work. Chime in with the reaction of those around when you pull this one out of your arsenal.

53 Comments
Level 9

This is a word I'm not really acquainted with but saying that I'll do my best not to appear obfuscated.

MVP
MVP

For many years I was in an environment that valued the appearance of character above actual character. What I mean by that was that in a group everyone looked good on the outside, but didn't talk about their struggles, fears, weaknesses. So their home lives, work lives etc. were often in shambles, but you'd never know it to look at them., This kind of thing is not unique to any specific environment it's everywhere. We put on an air - obfuscate - of who we want people to believe that we are (I'm not talking about confidence, but that mask that we wear to prevent people from knowing the real us)

Here's the thing, in most cases the people for whom you are putting on the mask are often also wearing a mask. We try to obfuscate as a way of protection, but it usually is just a signal that there is something else going on. I dare you to take off the mask, be open and honest and I bet you'll find that others begin to take off their masks - relationships will grow and everyone will feel better about themselves. (Keep in mind that it will be uncomfortable at first and of course there will be those that try to take advantage of your vulnerability - be wise)

Level 14

Obfuscatation is at the heart of some of our pitfalls in technology. It is a vendor that "looks" like the fix a problem, yet when pressed further do not.  It is that google post that does the same. It's source is varied and widespread.

It is what keeps us up at night, and drives us nuts every day. It is why when we encounter clarity of any kind in technology we are appreciative.

A great word of the day.... nicely done mandevil​ !!!

Level 9

Obfuscation is a great ADDITIONAL technique, but should never be used instead of encryption. I once worked in a place where all they did was shift the character set of the sensitive data. Blew my mind, with so many ASCII/UTF/HEX editors out there, made shifting back to readable far too easy.

Level 9

Never heard this word before until today. I can say that now that I know it I will try to use it as often as possible! In my IT career I can only relate to this word through working with end users. I don't know how many times I have handled tickets that seem straight forward until I actually speak to the user. It always seems that they can say just the right thing to obfuscate the issue (am I using that right?).

I would say software licensing and cloud computing can be Obfuscate.   I find that the more i read about volume licensing and cloud computing etc. the less clear things get.   I know i need it, i know i use it, I am just not sure why its better, because it sure doesn't seem to save me any money and or ever seem to end.  I am always needing to get more, and i still haven't figured out why. 

Level 12

I have an enemy that will always try to obfuscate the Word of God.

Brilliant jamison.jennings

Level 10

The worst poetry obfuscates; the best creates vivid images in your mind.

Level 12

I am just obfuscates to this subject.

In the mid 1970's one of my teachers was intently expanding my vocabulary, and I came away with the concept of "Pervasive, pernicious obfuscation."

pastedImage_1.png

pastedImage_2.png

pastedImage_3.png

I think governments, corporations, and individuals engage in pervasive, pernicious obfuscation when confronted about why they recommend eliminating Net Neutrality.

I've come to rely on the Obfuscate function in Greenshot Image Editor, which allows one to select items in a screen shot and make them "less clear".  You can even select them multiple times and scrub them over and over.

pastedImage_0.png

Level 9

Obfuscate sounds like something the guy in charge does every day.

Level 9

I thought it meant this was how you make things secure in your environment?

Level 11

Image result for OBFUSCATE

The obfuscation of information in today's highly volatile and paranoid clime (which even if it is not political can quickly slide into being political, re: FCC) immediately leads to suspicion, accusation, and sometimes panic. "We" demand for transparency even though transparency isn't always the best route. (I never want to know how the steak made it to my plate)

I've listened to enough security experts speak to know that it isn't always wise to disseminate critical information freely as it can do more damage than good. Obfuscation and trust go hand-in-hand. Sometimes you have to accept that its better that you don't have all the information.

Level 15

lol @ vendors; we call that "Lipstick on a Pig"

also, 100% agree with the end-result frustration. from an engineer-perspective, I am way more interested in reliable data than I am in what colors it is presented in. That's not to say that dashboards and the like are unimportant, but unless you have a solid foundation to build from, all of those pretty charts and graphs are obfuscating the truth.

Level 9

Well said.

MVP
MVP

I think for most of this, this gives new meaning to the word of the day challenge.  As others have stated, this is a new one on me.  I'll use it on one of my kids today and get the "dad you are old look". 

Thinking about recent events at work, one example I can come up with where things got obfuscated is where we are trying to implement a product for another vendor.  It seems the more we have meetings to talk about the best approached, the more confused I become on what I'm supposed to be doing.  Can someone please just speak English, quit changing strategy, and unobfuscate things for me please.

MVP
MVP

I find it funny that you deliberately take the positive position on the word and then most of the comments steer towards the negative connotations.

The word obfuscate can carry over to so many situations in our regular lives, but is it not used too much because it is just not a roll of the tongue kind of word. You know full well if you have this in the back of your mind to bring in to conversations, you will trip over yourself saying it, which in itself is ironic.

Level 10

I love calling a user who entered a support ticket, and when you start asking them for details they begin to obfuscate. Nothing sends up red flags faster than that. While it often means more work figuring out the issue, those are the cases where you have a good chance of walking away with a great story.

Level 9

I think that obfuscation is good and necessary in many situations.  I agree with tinmann0715​ that sometimes it's better not to have all of the information.  However, there are times when individuals obfuscate to avoid consequences of poor decisions or mistakes, which is the same as a lie by omission.  It also drives me crazy when people take credit for work they didn't do by obfuscating how they resolved a problem in order to avoid giving credit to anyone other than themselves.   

Obfuscation is a good thing when it is used attempting to protect your Intellectual Property [IP]. There are several tools out there that will obfuscate your compiled code to make it more difficult, some claim impossible, for someone to reverse engineer your assembly language. I know not all languages suffer from this but enough of the popular ones do. Then there is the obfuscation of Hardware IP where dummy gates and wires are scattered through out a "chip" in order to confuse a competitor about the actual logic and layout. I have assisted my wife, who is an artist, in obfuscating her images by putting watermarks and lowering the resolution so that they can be shared but not easily and accurately reproduced.

Then there is Steganography which does not necessarily imply encryption, but is simply the act of hiding or obscuring a message or payload inside of another entity. I was first introduced to this while at the National Air Intelligence Center. Demonstrations of putting large amounts of text or code inside of an image file that remains unchanged to the human eye. This is used for all types of illicit data transfers as the files appear innocent enough. The user is unaware unless they have a copy of the original file.

Finally just because I need a geeky reference for obfuscation:

“The Somebody Else's Problem field is much simpler and more effective, and what's more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people's natural disposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain.” ― Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

Level 12

Some of the obfuscated text on this post make my head hurt, and my eyes too. This seems to happen in IT all the time, usually by accident. We have a love of acronyms which can obfuscate the actual terminology.

Level 9

Obfuscate, you got me!  I had to go to my most reliable resource to find what you meant.  My friend Google helped me out and now I feel less obfuscated.

I've done my good deed of the day and learned something new, now I can go home.

Level 11

I use "obfuscate" in conversation all the time. I really like the word. I've always felt the word carried connotations of being confusing or vague to hide one's meaning or topic.

To obfuscate one's meaning to those who are not the intended recipient of a message can be fun. It could be talking in some code. It might be (OK, I guess this is a sort of code) using some inside reference. A southerner tossing a "bless your (his) heart" to a non-southerner can qualify.

It need not, however, even be spoken. Years ago, there was a series of commercials for Snickers. The punchline of each ad was someone holding a Snickers bar out to someone with the voiceover, "Not going anywhere for a while?" There was a time when a few close friends and I, say if a speaker was droning on too long, would just pretend to hold out a Snickers bar to another of us. We so obfuscated our message most folks probably didn't even know we were sending one!

MVP
MVP

Back on the 5th the word of the day was "code", which I had the pleasure of writing about.   There is an "obfuscated C code contest" that has been ongoing for years which if you want to see some neat examples of obfuscation its a great place to go!!   I remember a contest like this when I was in college, although it might have encompassed other languages like Lisp...   I've seen an obfuscated Perl contest too...

The International Obfuscated C Code Contest

Level 14

Many attackers will attempt to obfuscate their presence on your network by creating distractions.

Some managers / leaders Obfuscate their mission / vision by being ambiguous.

Vision needs to be clear.

Expectations need to be clear.

Level 16

Some people unintentionally ofusticate their questions to the NOC. I got a ticket today "We are trying to renew some certificates with xxxxx and it is not working. they said they have sent the emails to <list of addresses all of which match the NOC>" I don't know the CN on the certificates, but counting the emails from xxxxx gave me at least 31 different tickets in the past month, many of which look suspicious to me.

"I'm ill, doctor, Help."

Level 11

The word "obfuscate" when used can achieve its meaning as your audience or writer may be unclear about what you mean. 

"I dare you to use it in normal conversation while at work. Chime in with the reaction of those around when you pull this one out of your arsenal." mandevil​, this part made me laugh as I can imagine the look on my colleagues' faces.

Level 14

We have project managers who really take this to a whole new level.  Today one of then sent out meeting invites with the 'pre-meeting (to set out the technical side of things - required before the main meeting could happen) set to happen AFTER the main meeting.  He couldn't / wouldn't see how this would cause any confusion.

Level 10

Obfuscate: what I desperately try to do when I answer a bit too quickly and get it wrong, only it's CC'ing C-levels. Two-fold; to recover my situation with minimal backtracking to all those managers and secondly to hide my shame as much as possible from my coworkers.

Level 10

IT professionals always do a very good job of obfuscating what they are doing to the users.

As long as it is working users don't need to know.

Level 8

I think I am going to obfuscate my answer, when I get asked " When can you have this done by? " LOL

Level 20

c-code-and-the-art-of-obfuscation-19-728.jpg

Level 14

I had the perfect opportunity to use this word yesterday.  I can't go into particulars, but someone at work was trying to use untrue data to obfuscate the facts.  They did not know what I was talking about.

Level 12

Obfuscate the users. Once they think they know something - that's all they ever think of to blame.

Level 13

Obfuscate --- just blurry man, just blurry.

pastedImage_0.png

If you really want some Obfuscated code take a look at this language Whitespace (programming language) - Wikipedia

Level 11

On the Collins website it says this about Obfuscate:

Used Occasionally. obfuscate is one of the 30000 most commonly used words in the Collins dictionary

Interesting! I rarely hear this word. It also shows a map that indicated the use of the word has spiked since the early 1970s. Wonder why.

Level 11

The use of the word seems to have spiked since the mid-70's..Coincidence? Or did your teacher bring it back?

obfuscate.PNG

Level 17

Data masking, row-level security, and generating test data instead of using production data are all good ways to obfuscate data.

I've no idea who is bringing it back, but special interest groups and political parties certainly seem to be using its concept more widely than ever before.

Or perhaps social media and Internet News sources make it easier to receive false news and see reports and examples of obfuscation.

Level 9

The vision of business associates seem to obfuscate to anything beyond the H-E-L-P Line... And from an IT Perspective this also seems to be The case when troubleshooting and someone mention anything related networking...

Level 12

Why obfuscate the whole thing? It rather a bore to keep obfuscating matters.

MVP
MVP

This reminds me of the story where a manager always wanted to see green on his dashboard. Any times something went red, critical, warning, etc. it was a huge problem even if was a minor issue. The engineer managing the system eventually gave him a filtered view that hid all the problems and it was always green.

This story itself can also relate to obfuscation because I can no longer recall if that was an actual real story I was told or if it's an urban legend.

Level 14

That's exactly what I have been asked to do.  They want a screen showing everything is working that can be displayed on our intranet landing page, ignoring anything that might actually be wrong.  I need one that shows the issues.  I'm fairly sure I can do both but it will take some tweeking.

Level 21

I remember when I started here over 16 years ago there were some design things that I questioned and I was told that it was "security through obfuscation".  My mind was blown, it wasn't adequate then and it certainly isn't adequate now so it's good that we no longer rely on that... at least not just that.

I love using the word obfuscated and/or obfuscation in regular discussion. There are a lot of ways I've seen it come up, anyway.

Example: I have friends who LARP (I don't), but in the fun fantasy world reference, vampires have a form of obfuscation to make themselves basically invisible. The fun part is they can't talk while they're doing it.

In a real world environment, a lot of the techniques used by certain investigatory arms of the government (cybersec, etc) involve obfuscation. Whether it's obfuscating data so that it can't be seen or a lack of obfuscation by assuming something is hidden in plain site, or trying to ofuscate things that are The FBI Is Apparently Paying Geek Squad Members To Dig Around In Computers For Evidence Of Criminal ...  (very questionable), it's something that's a part of human, or even more core animal behavior.

Hiding things is just as much a part of human nature as any other part of social interaction.

Level 10

pastedImage_0.png

About the Author
I have over 15 years of broad experience as a production DBA, development DBA, and architect/data modeler on a variety of platforms. I worked in the aerospace, global technology, geospatial industries, and taught master level courses at Regis University.