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Re: Random #'s via serial port dongle?

>From: [email protected]
>To: [email protected] (Eric Hughes)

>    >This has probably been discussed before, but has anyone built a little
>    >device that amplifies the white noise from a transistor junction, and
>    >converts it into serial data?
>    As Tim mentions, lots of people have talked about doing this, but few
>    actually have.  Nevertheless, the device is still needed and no one
>    has done it.
>    I estimate you could sell 500 at $50 each within four months if there
>    were PGP support for it.  And I'll give you advertising space on the
>    archive site.
>    Real random numbers should be a standard part of every computer.

>Absolutely.  Given a choice between a hardware encryptor -- even a
>public key hardware encryptor -- and a true random number generator,
>I'd unhesitatingly choose the latter.

Having seen random noise sources in real digital crypto use I would give a
couple of hints.

A noise source is used to generate noise at a deterministic rate, either
a rate at which it is consumed or the rate at which it is stored (in the
case of one time pad generation).  This implies two characteristics 1) that
frequency distribution of noise is suitable for that rate, and 2) That the
noise source is sampled or gated.  The very act of converting noise to
digital date is fraught with pitfalls.  The noise source needs to be
extremely well isolated from the rest of a system, to prevent unwanted
coupling between digital transitions and the noise source (it just about
always implies amplification for thresold sampling).  Otherwise your noise
source is not as random as could be hoped.  It should also be suggested
that a random noise source be tested (statistically) periodically, and
should not present a single point failure that can endanger the security
of communications (redundancy).  All noise sources should be isolated
from each other as well as from the system in which they are utilized.

Intel got a COMSEC noise source module certified in the mid 80s, it would
not be available to us nor be affordable.  Previously the smallest available
encapsulated module was the size of a Zippo lighter.  I believe HP used to
sell zener noise diodes, although you can reverse bias an EB junction on a

Any and all parts should be screened for noise spectrum, especially
disturbing would be any spectrum holes.  You would be able to extrapolate
a bell curve distribution, with your sampling rate(s) falling well toward
the middle.   Were you to use a noise source toward the outsides of the
curve it would behoove you to consume more noise data over a longer period
of time.  NSA used to have an unclassified document on criteria for random
noise sources, which got deleted in the early Reagan presidency when the
U.S. started losing Perestroka.

Note that as seen from CCEP chip specs and the clipper chip spec, block
ciphers can be used with special data sets (including the seed) to generate
a "random" initial vector (IV).  The clipper chip spec shows a maximum
of 650 clocks to generate and IV, including LEAF generation, while the
clipper chip takes 64 clocks to execute 32 rounds of Skipjack. The LEAF
should account 2 rounds (128 clocks).  One could guess that statistical
testing determines how many skipjack iterations to generate the IV in view
of the maximum of 650 clocks.  It is even possible that failing statistical
tests causes a master alarm condition.  Further speculation is entertaining.

Were you to use noise sources for one time pads you have the problem of
secure distribution.