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/dev/random in Fedora 20 is too FAST!

asked 2013-12-29 20:58:54 -0500

mattman5 gravatar image

I know this seems like a strange "problem," but the output of /dev/random in Fedora 20 seems like it's actually too FAST. Yes, I know the difference between /dev/random and /dev/urandom. /dev/random blocks reading from it when the pool of entropy is exhausted, but /dev/urandom will generate pseudorandom numbers once the entropy pool is exhausted.

On other linux distros (Ubuntu and Arch), running the same kernel version "3.12.5", the command:cat /dev/random produces a very slow output, but the command cat /dev/urandom produces a very fast output. This is to be expected. However, I noticed on my fresh install of Fedora 20, that they both produce very fast outputs.

Is there a problem with /dev/random on Fedora 20? Why is the output so fast? /dev/random seems to be behaving the same as /dev/urandom, and this is a serious security concern if you rely on /dev/random for producing GPG and SSL keys! Does anybody know why this is in Fedora 20?

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it could be that your machine has a hardware entropy device, and rngd found it in the latest release?

randomuser gravatar imagerandomuser ( 2013-12-31 10:39:13 -0500 )edit

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answered 2014-03-21 05:07:42 -0500

jjelen gravatar image

FYI, this is change in kernel v3.13-rc1:

since Fedora uses this kernel, it is affected. I don't exactly know how it works, but it fills random pool with some extra entropy.

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answered 2014-01-01 12:55:57 -0500

mattman5 gravatar image

updated 2014-01-01 12:59:00 -0500

I'll explain why it's a security concern. I have NEVER seen /dev/random output that fast before. I measured it output 1.5MB in 5 seconds. That's about 1000 times faster than on other distros. I'm concerned it might be outputting pseudorandom data like /dev/urandom instead of gathering entropy from kernel interrupts, mouse movements, disk activity, etc...

That said, I measured /dev/urandom to output about 80MB in that same 5 seconds. So maybe my concerns are not valid. But /dev/random does still seem suspiciously fast. I have never seen the kernal gather entropy that quickly before. I just hope the GPG keys I generated on this installation of Fedora are safe :/

Can anyone else reproduce this on Fedora 20? just do cat /dev/random > file and let that run for 5 seconds before closing the terminal

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Without a hardware RNG, it couldn't possibly gather entropy that fast.

mattman5 gravatar imagemattman5 ( 2014-01-01 12:57:06 -0500 )edit

I get about 450 bytes after 5 seconds.

catanzaro gravatar imagecatanzaro ( 2014-01-02 17:55:47 -0500 )edit

If you do not have a hardware RNG, then 'systemctl status rngd' should have a failed status. FWIW /dev/urandom is about 100000x faster than /dev/random on my F20 machine.

catanzaro gravatar imagecatanzaro ( 2014-01-02 18:03:15 -0500 )edit

@jjelen - good find, convert to answer please!

randomuser gravatar imagerandomuser ( 2014-04-17 00:16:30 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-05-04 02:16:56 -0500

Try catting /proc/cpuinfo. If you use Intel CPU(s) and there's rdrand in flags, the CPU supports hardware random number generator, which is used by the kernel as an entropy source.

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answered 2013-12-30 23:32:37 -0500

arr gravatar image

Please excuse the n00b question, but why is fast output from /dev/random a security concern?

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it is not about the speed, but people doubt about the quality.

jjelen gravatar imagejjelen ( 2015-11-26 13:31:08 -0500 )edit

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Asked: 2013-12-29 20:58:54 -0500

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Last updated: May 04 '14