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RedHat 9 (Linux i386) - man page for random (redhat section 4)

RANDOM(4)			    Linux Programmer's Manual				RANDOM(4)

NAME
       random, urandom - kernel random number source devices

DESCRIPTION
       The character special files /dev/random and /dev/urandom (present since Linux 1.3.30) pro-
       vide an interface to the kernel's random number generator.   File  /dev/random  has  major
       device  number  1  and minor device number 8.  File /dev/urandom has major device number 1
       and minor device number 9.

       The random number generator gathers environmental noise	from  device  drivers  and  other
       sources	into  an entropy pool.	The generator also keeps an estimate of the number of bit
       of the noise in the entropy pool.  From this entropy pool random numbers are created.

       When read, the /dev/random device will only return random bytes within the estimated  num-
       ber  of	bits  of noise in the entropy pool.  /dev/random should be suitable for uses that
       need very high quality randomness such as  one-time  pad  or  key  generation.	When  the
       entropy	pool  is  empty,  reads  to /dev/random will block until additional environmental
       noise is gathered.

       When read, /dev/urandom device will return as many bytes as are requested.  As  a  result,
       if  there is not sufficient entropy in the entropy pool, the returned values are theoreti-
       cally vulnerable to a cryptographic attack on the algorithms used by the  driver.   Knowl-
       edge  of  how to do this is not available in the current non-classified literature, but it
       is theoretically possible that such an attack may exist.  If this is  a	concern  in  your
       application, use /dev/random instead.

CONFIGURING
       If  your  system  does  not have /dev/random and /dev/urandom created already, they can be
       created with the following commands:

	       mknod -m 644 /dev/random c 1 8
	       mknod -m 644 /dev/urandom c 1 9
	       chown root:root /dev/random /dev/urandom

       When a Linux system starts up without much operator interaction, the entropy pool  may  be
       in  a  fairly  predictable  state.  This reduces the actual amount of noise in the entropy
       pool below the estimate.  In order to counteract this effect, it helps  to  carry  entropy
       pool  information across shut-downs and start-ups.  To do this, add the following lines to
       an appropriate script which is run during the Linux system start-up sequence:

	    echo "Initializing kernel random number generator..."
	    # Initialize kernel random number generator with random seed
	    # from last shut-down (or start-up) to this start-up.  Load and
	    # then save 512 bytes, which is the size of the entropy pool.
	    if [ -f /var/random-seed ]; then
		 cat /var/random-seed >/dev/urandom
	    fi
	    dd if=/dev/urandom of=/var/random-seed count=1

       Also, add the following lines in an appropriate script which is run during the Linux  sys-
       tem shutdown:

	    # Carry a random seed from shut-down to start-up for the random
	    # number generator.  Save 512 bytes, which is the size of the
	    # random number generator's entropy pool.
	    echo "Saving random seed..."
	    dd if=/dev/urandom of=/var/random-seed count=1

FILES
       /dev/random
       /dev/urandom

AUTHOR
       The kernel's random number generator was written by Theodore Ts'o (tytso@athena.mit.edu).

SEE ALSO
       mknod (1)
       RFC 1750, "Randomness Recommendations for Security"

Linux					    1997-08-01					RANDOM(4)


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