Thursday, March 20, 2014

Attacking the Random Number Generator, Not the Algorithm

Matthew Green:

What this means is that an attacker who can predict the output of your RNG—perhaps by taking advantage of a bug, or even compromising it at a design level—can often completely decrypt your communications. The Debian project learned this firsthand, as have many others. This certainly hasn’t escaped NSA’s notice, if the allegations regarding its Dual EC random number generator are true.

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Unfortunately, so far all I’ve done is call out the challenges with building trustworthy RNGs. And there’s a reason for this: the challenges are easy to identify, while the solutions themselves are hard. And unfortunately at this time, they’re quite manual.

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Solving this problem, at least in software, so we can ensure that code is correct and does not contain hidden ‘easter eggs’, represents one of the more significant research challenges facing those of us who depend on secure cryptographic primitives.

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