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Date:   Sun, 9 Aug 2020 14:48:23 -0700
From:   Linus Torvalds <>
To:     Marc Plumb <>
Cc:     Willy Tarreau <>, George Spelvin <>,
        Netdev <>,
        Amit Klein <>,
        Eric Dumazet <>,
        "Jason A. Donenfeld" <>,
        Andrew Lutomirski <>,
        Kees Cook <>,
        Thomas Gleixner <>,
        Peter Zijlstra <>,
        "Theodore Ts'o" <>,
        Stephen Hemminger <>,
        Florian Westphal <>
Subject: Re: [DRAFT PATCH] random32: make prandom_u32() output unpredictable

On Sun, Aug 9, 2020 at 2:10 PM Marc Plumb <> wrote:
> However, I think I'm starting to see your underlying assumptions.
> You're thinking that raw noise data are the only truly unpredictable
> thing so you think that adding it is a defense against attacks like
> foreshadow/spectre/meltdown. You aren't entirely wrong -- if there was
> a fast noise source then it might be a good option. Just if the noise
> source is slow, you're just causing far more damage to a far more
> critical crypto function to get very little benefit.

The only truly good noise source we have is any CPU native randomness.

Sadly, that is usually never really "fast". But we do use that for any
actual real /dev/random reading. We still whiten it through our
hashing, and we mix it in rather than use the raw CPU hw-provided
values (because not everybody trusts the CPU vendors either), but
/dev/random will most certainly take advantage of it as one source of

(Honesty in advertising: you can also use other interfaces that don't
bother with the remixing, and _will_ just return the raw CPU

So if you make the (imho reasonable) assumption that you're running on
a modern enough CPU, and that the CPU hw randomness is of reasonable
quality, then you never need to worry about /dev/random. Every single
time you extract something from one of the pools, I think we mix in
that CPU randomness if it's available.

But the CPU randomness is too slow for the prandom code to use at
extraction time. It's on the order of a couple of hundred to a couple
of thousand cycles. That's peanuts for /dev/random, but quite a lot
for prandom.

In fact, at the slow end it is slow enough that you don't want to do
it at any fast granularity (ie not "every interrupt"), it's the "when
reseeding once a second" kind of slow.

arm64 has randomness too these days too, but that's only of the
"really slow, useful for seeding" variety. And I'm not sure which (if
any) CPU implementations out there actually do it yet.

Anyway, I suspect /dev/random has been over-engineered (I think we
have something like three layers of mixing bits _and_ the CPU
randomness _and_ all the interrupt randomness), and prandom may have
been left alone too much.


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