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NewsForge: The Problem with Random Number Generators

Apr 30, 2006, 05:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Sam Bisbee)

"It is a commonly accepted fact that computers by themselves cannot generate truly random numbers, and so most software relies on pseudo random numbers. This means that encryption and other applied uses of 'random' numbers may not be as secure as users think. However, it is possible to expand the boundaries of generating random numbers using a computer. The most common way to do that is to use indirect input, such as the system clock. Other methods rely on direct human input.

"Google provides an interesting approach to generating random numbers through indirect input. Since the Internet is constantly changing, with Web pages and domains being continuously created, modified, and deleted, databases such as Google provide an extremely large dataset from which to seed a random number generator. In this context, a seed is a number input as a starting point for the generator's algorithms..."

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