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) provide 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 number 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 environ-
       mental 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 theo-
       retically  vulnerable  to  a  cryptographic  attack on the
       algorithms used by the driver.  Knowledge  of  how  to  do
       this is not available in the current non-classified liter-
       ature, but it  is  theoretically  possible  that  such  an
       attack  may  exist.  If this is a concern in your applica-
       tion, 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 inter-
       action,  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 fol-
       lowing 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 system 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                     August 1, 1997                        1