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Created Jul 13, 2017
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mirror from @DefuseSec analysis of RDRAND's code
// This is a quick analysis of Linux's use of RDRAND. All double-slash (//)
// style comments are my own, all slash-star (/*) style comments are from the
// original code. This was written by Taylor Hornby (@DefuseSec).
// This is part of the drivers/char/random.c file.
// I have re-ordered the procedures for clarity. Everything inside them (except
// comments) is exactly as you will find it in linux-3.11.tar.xz
// This comment says it 'does not use' the hardware RNG. It actually does.
* This function is the exported kernel interface. It returns some
* number of good random numbers, suitable for key generation, seeding
* TCP sequence numbers, etc. It does not use the hw random number
* generator, if available; use get_random_bytes_arch() for that.
void get_random_bytes(void *buf, int nbytes)
extract_entropy(&nonblocking_pool, buf, nbytes, 0, 0);
// This one is called by get_random_bytes above.
static ssize_t extract_entropy(struct entropy_store *r, void *buf,
size_t nbytes, int min, int reserved)
ssize_t ret = 0, i;
__u8 tmp[EXTRACT_SIZE];
unsigned long flags;
/* if last_data isn't primed, we need EXTRACT_SIZE extra bytes */
if (fips_enabled) {
spin_lock_irqsave(&r->lock, flags);
if (!r->last_data_init) {
r->last_data_init = true;
spin_unlock_irqrestore(&r->lock, flags);
trace_extract_entropy(r->name, EXTRACT_SIZE,
r->entropy_count, _RET_IP_);
xfer_secondary_pool(r, EXTRACT_SIZE);
extract_buf(r, tmp);
spin_lock_irqsave(&r->lock, flags);
memcpy(r->last_data, tmp, EXTRACT_SIZE);
spin_unlock_irqrestore(&r->lock, flags);
trace_extract_entropy(r->name, nbytes, r->entropy_count, _RET_IP_);
xfer_secondary_pool(r, nbytes);
nbytes = account(r, nbytes, min, reserved);
while (nbytes) {
// Each iteration of this loop:
// - Extracts 'EXTRACT_SIZE' bytes from extract_buf
// - Panic if the just-extracted bytes are the same as the
// previously-extracted bytes.
// - Copy either EXTRACT_SIZE or nbytes into the output.
extract_buf(r, tmp);
if (fips_enabled) {
spin_lock_irqsave(&r->lock, flags);
if (!memcmp(tmp, r->last_data, EXTRACT_SIZE))
panic("Hardware RNG duplicated output!\n");
memcpy(r->last_data, tmp, EXTRACT_SIZE);
spin_unlock_irqrestore(&r->lock, flags);
i = min_t(int, nbytes, EXTRACT_SIZE);
memcpy(buf, tmp, i);
nbytes -= i;
buf += i;
ret += i;
/* Wipe data just returned from memory */
memset(tmp, 0, sizeof(tmp));
return ret;
// This fills 'out' with EXTRACT_BYTES random bytes. It's what extract_entropy
// uses to fill its output buffer.
static void extract_buf(struct entropy_store *r, __u8 *out)
// Skip all this stuff because it doesn't matter for the point I want to
// make...
int i;
union {
__u32 w[5];
unsigned long l[LONGS(EXTRACT_SIZE)];
} hash;
__u32 workspace[SHA_WORKSPACE_WORDS];
__u8 extract[64];
unsigned long flags;
/* Generate a hash across the pool, 16 words (512 bits) at a time */
spin_lock_irqsave(&r->lock, flags);
for (i = 0; i < r->poolinfo->poolwords; i += 16)
sha_transform(hash.w, (__u8 *)(r->pool + i), workspace);
* We mix the hash back into the pool to prevent backtracking
* attacks (where the attacker knows the state of the pool
* plus the current outputs, and attempts to find previous
* ouputs), unless the hash function can be inverted. By
* mixing at least a SHA1 worth of hash data back, we make
* brute-forcing the feedback as hard as brute-forcing the
* hash.
__mix_pool_bytes(r, hash.w, sizeof(hash.w), extract);
spin_unlock_irqrestore(&r->lock, flags);
* To avoid duplicates, we atomically extract a portion of the
* pool while mixing, and hash one final time.
sha_transform(hash.w, extract, workspace);
memset(extract, 0, sizeof(extract));
memset(workspace, 0, sizeof(workspace));
* In case the hash function has some recognizable output
* pattern, we fold it in half. Thus, we always feed back
* twice as much data as we output.
hash.w[0] ^= hash.w[3];
hash.w[1] ^= hash.w[4];
hash.w[2] ^= rol32(hash.w[2], 16);
// Ah, here we are. Finally, we found RDRAND.
// This XOR's RDRAND *directly* into the output buffer, right before
// returning.
* If we have a architectural hardware random number
* generator, mix that in, too.
for (i = 0; i < LONGS(EXTRACT_SIZE); i++) {
unsigned long v;
// arch_get_random is RDRAND.
if (!arch_get_random_long(&v))
hash.l[i] ^= v;
// SIMPLICIO: Why is that a problem? I thought if you XOR a non-random
// stream with a random one, you get a random one? Remember,
// one-time-pads and such?
// SALVIATI: Right, that's true. Even if RDRAND returns all zeroes, or some
// completely predictable sequence, the output will be random as
// long as it was random before the XOR.
// SIMPLICIO: So what's the problem, then? It seems like having RDRAND here
// can only make things better...
// SALVIATI: Ah, that's true if RDRAND might only be a weak source of
// entropy, but if it's *actively* malicious, it could seriously
// compromise the security of the output. For example, it could
// purposely return the inverse of the bits it's going to be
// XORed with, resulting in this function filling 'out' with zero
// bytes.
// SIMPLICIO: That's rediculous! How could RDRAND know which bits it's going
// to be XORed with? There's no way one instruction could figure
// all of that out.
// SALVIATI: Actually, it's quite possible. The procesor wouldn't even have
// to be smart about it. Chances are, the bits it's going to be
// XORed with are in cache (which is inside the CPU), so if the
// CPU had RDRAND return the XOR of all longs in the cache, it
// would cancel out and information about the state of the cache
// would leak out through the RNG. There are plenty of other
// ways. This is the CPU, remember. It can pretty much do
// anything it wants.
// SIMPLICIO: Ok, I see how this use of RDRAND could *in theory* weaken the
// whole RNG. But wouldn't that be pretty easy to detect, and
// can't we trust Intel? If the NSA has their hand up Intel's
// ass, wouldn't there be easier ways of backdooring a system?
// SALVIATI: The RDRAND backdoor could be made so that it only activates
// under certain, very specific, conditions. For example, it
// might only activate when RAX contains 0x632472F72B3FB507,
// which is extremely unlikely to happen during normal use, but
// could be made to happen by sending the system a TCP packet,
// web page, etc, containing that value. So, if it existed, it
// would be extremely difficult to detect. It's possible in
// principal to reverse engineer the CPU itself, but it's
// extremely expensive -- and destructive -- so you can't check
// all of the CPUs you actually use for backdoors. Sure, if the
// NSA controlled Intel, there would be easier ways to backdoor
// a system, but backdooring the RNG is nice, because it's
// passive: You don't have to *do* anything to a system in order
// to break it. You can just listen to the system's network
// traffic and use your RNG backdoor to decrypt it. Futher, it's
// bad design to combine two RNGs by XORing them together. They
// may be correlated (by accident or on purpose) in subtle ways
// that cancel out security. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure
// what the best way would be, but it certainly isn't XOR.
memcpy(out, &hash, EXTRACT_SIZE);
memset(&hash, 0, sizeof(hash));
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