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Suspekt Blog:
mt_srand and not so random numbers
Aug 18, 2008 @ 14:49:31

Stefan Esser points out a problem with the mt_rand and rand methods in PHP that makes them not quite random enough for cryptographic uses.

PHP comes with two random number generators named rand() and mt_rand(). The first is just a wrapper around the libc rand() function and the second one is an implementation of the Mersenne Twister pseudo random number generator. Both of these algorithms are seeded by a single 32 bit dword when they are first used in a process or one of the seeding functions srand() or mt_srand() is called.

He looks at how its currently implemented, some examples of bad methods to get "random" numbers, how shared resources are a problem and an example of a cross-application attack (the application in more than once place using the same method for getting random numbers).

In the comments he recommends either grabbing from /dev/random (if you're on a unix-based system) or making the creation of your numbers a bit more complex to include things the outside world wouldn't know.

tagged: mtrand random number rand cryptography problem