Crypto-snake oil

    Date04 Sep 2006
    Posted ByBenjamin D. Thomas
    The term snake oil is often used to describe cryptography that does not actually provide the level of security that its proponents claim. The origin of the term is somewhat unclear, but one story is that it can be traced back to one of the traditional remedies for joint pain and inflammation that was brought to the US in the nineteenth century by Chinese immigrants.

    The fat from Chinese water snakes is high in eicosapentaenic acid (EPA), which has been shown to have some medicinal properties, so there may be some basis for believing that the traditional remedy actually had useful effects.

    Like the effects of many medications, however, the benefits from the traditional snake oil were subtle and varied significantly from person to person, making it difficult to rigorously prove the effectiveness of the remedy.

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