Randomness and random numbers are critical parts of our everyday life. Matti Tommiska, Xiphera’s Co-founder and CEO, discusses the significance and purpose of randomness and random number generators.
What is randomness?
Randomness can be loosely defined as the unpredictability of an individual event in a way that if the probability distribution of an individual event is known, the frequency of individual events when repeated often enough becomes predictable. Let’s study this scenario through a very generic example: flipping a coin. The probability of either heads or tails is 1/2 in a coin flip, and if a fair and untampered coin is flipped ten thousand times, it is highly likely that both heads and tails result approximately five thousand times.
Random numbers – or often just random bits, which are a subset of random numbers – have many use cases in our everyday life. Randomness and random numbers are needed in computer simulations and gaming (who would like to play an identically progressing Clash of Clans each and every time?), and very importantly in cryptography, where they are used, for example, as seed material for secret keys and initialisation vectors.
A well-known quote from famous mathematician and computer scientist Donald Knuth states that "Random numbers should not be generated with a method chosen at random", and it is indeed of paramount importance to use a dependable and proven method to generate random numbers for security-critical applications, such as cryptography.
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