Small Seed Space in PRNG

A Pseudo-Random Number Generator (PRNG) uses a relatively small seed space, which makes it more susceptible to brute force attacks.


PRNGs are entirely deterministic once seeded, so it should be extremely difficult to guess the seed. If an attacker can collect the outputs of a PRNG and then brute force the seed by trying every possibility to see which seed matches the observed output, then the attacker will know the output of any subsequent calls to the PRNG. A small seed space implies that the attacker will have far fewer possible values to try to exhaust all possibilities.


The following examples help to illustrate the nature of this weakness and describe methods or techniques which can be used to mitigate the risk.

Note that the examples here are by no means exhaustive and any given weakness may have many subtle varieties, each of which may require different detection methods or runtime controls.

Example One

This code grabs some random bytes and uses them for a seed in a PRNG, in order to generate a new cryptographic key.

# getting 2 bytes of randomness for the seeding the PRNG
seed = os.urandom(2)
key = random.getrandbits(128)

Since only 2 bytes are used as a seed, an attacker will only need to guess 2^16 (65,536) values before being able to replicate the state of the PRNG.

See Also

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