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Randomness Recommendations For Security Security Systems Today Are Built On Increasingly Strong Cryptographic Algorithms That Foil Pattern Analysis Attempts.

985 words - 4 pages

IntroductionSoftware cryptography is coming into wider use. Systems likeKerberos, PEM, PGP, etc. are maturing and becoming a part of thenetwork landscape [PEM]. These systems provide substantialprotection against snooping and spoofing. However, there is apotential flaw. At the heart of all cryptographic systems is thegeneration of secret, unguessable (i.e., random) numbers.For the present, the lack of generally available facilities forgenerating such unpredictable numbers is an open wound in the designof cryptographic software. For the software developer who wants tobuild a key or password generation procedure that runs on a widerange of hardware, the only safe strategy so far has been to forcethe local installation to supply a suitable routine to generaterandom numbers. To say the least, this is an awkward, error-proneand unpalatable solution.It is important to keep in mind that the requirement is for data thatan adversary has a very low probability of guessing or determining.This will fail if pseudo-random data is used which only meetstraditional statistical tests for randomness or which is based onlimited range sources, such as clocks. Frequently such randomquantities are determinable by an adversary searching through anembarrassingly small space of possibilities.This informational document suggests techniques for producing randomquantities that will be resistant to such attack. It recommends thatfuture systems include hardware random number generation or provideaccess to existing hardware that can be used for this purpose. Itsuggests methods for use if such hardware is not available. And itgives some estimates of the number of random bits required for sampleRequirementsProbably the most commonly encountered randomness requirement todayis the user password. This is usually a simple character string.Obviously, if a password can be guessed, it does not providesecurity. (For re-usable passwords, it is desirable that users beable to remember the password. This may make it advisable to usepronounceable character strings or phrases composed on ordinarywords. But this only affects the format of the password information,not the requirement that the password be very hard to guess.)Many other requirements come from the cryptographic arena.Cryptographic techniques can be used to provide a variety of servicesincluding confidentiality and authentication. Such services arebased on quantities, traditionally called "keys", that are unknown toand unguessable by an adversary.In some cases, such as the use of symmetric encryption with the onetime pads [CRYPTO*] or the US Data Encryption Standard [DES], theparties who wish to communicate confidentially and/or withauthentication must all know the same secret key. In other cases,using what are called asymmetric or "public key" cryptographictechniques, keys come in pairs. One key of the pair is private andmust be kept secret by one party, the other is public and can bepublished to the world. It is computationally...

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