Lava Lamps & Hackers

Lava Lamps & Hackers

Here’s how it works. Every time you log in to any website, you’re assigned a unique identification number. It should be random, because if hackers can predict the number, they’ll impersonate you. Computers, relying as they do on human-coded patterns, can’t generate true randomness—but nobody can predict the goopy mesmeric swirlings of oil, water, and wax. Cloudflare films the lamps 24/7 and uses the ever-changing arrangement of pixels to help create a superpowered cryptographic key. “Anything that the camera captures gets incorporated into the randomness,” says Nick Sullivan, the company’s head of cryptography, and that includes visitors milling about and light streaming through the windows. (Any change in heat subtly affects the undulations of those glistening globules.)

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But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. (Matthew 24:43)


Reviewed Unto Righteousness | Proverbs 18:2 | Timothy Williams
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(—The most simple explanation is that a lava lamp is a great way to generate randomness. Coding just isn’t great at generating random numbers because, at its heart, code requires a system to mimic chaos. The best encryption has a truly random key so it’s more difficult for a bad actor to guess how to break the cipher. Cloudflare videotapes its wall of colorful constantly morphing lava lamps and translates that video information into unique cryptographic keys. You might think that someone could just arrange the same lava lamp specifications and video camera to start picking apart the security company’s keys but that’s simply not the case. Nick Sullivan, Cloudfare’s head of cryptography, explains why this setup is so truly random and some of the other methods his company uses to keep things completely unpredictable in the embed below.