A network entropy distribution system
Note: The master branch of this code is alpha quality but usable.
NetRNG is effectively a network connected hardware random number generator.
It allows devices like the RaspberryPi, Beaglebone, or any machine with a TPM, Entropy Key, or other hardware random number generator onboard to act as a NetRNG server, providing high quality random data to other machines on the network.
Virtual machines can potentially benefit the most from NetRNG, as they typically suffer from poor quality local entropy sources due to their running environment.
No application or kernel changes are required on NetRNG Client machines; any application using /dev/random and /dev/urandom will automatically and transparently receive entropy from the NetRNG server.
Why it exists
EntropyBroker is the closest similar project I know of, but it didn’t build when I tried to use it, and the code seems quite large and complicated for a task that, conceptually, is very simple.
So I wrote NetRNG. It’s simple code, easy to maintain, easy to deploy, and with the exception of some network protocol issues before v0.1, it works quite well.
How it works
As a complete system, NetRNG links /dev/hwrng on one machine, to /dev/random on many others, carefully ensuring that each machine receives unique entropy samples, while allowing the entropy to be validated for quality and ensuring that entropy is fairly distributed among connected clients.
It is essentially a persistent pipeline from one machine to many others, with some minor restrictions on how the pipeline functions to make it suitable for the task.
However, netrng.py itself does one job and only one job: it moves random data around on the local network. Other tasks like validating the samples and providing them to the kernel entropy pool are left to rngd from rng-tools, which is automatically started and managed by NetRNG.
The NetRNG server reads from /dev/hwrng (configurable), dividing up the stream in to non-repeating, non-overlapping samples of a size defined in the configuration file, then sends each one to clients on the local network.
The maximum number of clients that will be accepted can be configured on the server, this allows you to prevent a slow HWRNG from being spread too thin among too many clients.
I’m working on a QoS style load management system that will allow you to guarantee that each connected client can receive entropy samples at a specific rate, 10KB/s for example. Clients would be allowed to connect until the server could no longer guarantee that entropy rate to each of them.
The client starts rngd from rng-tools as a subprocess, then connects to the server and starts requesting entropy samples from it. Then each sample is forwarded to rngd for processing.
Then, rngd validates the quality of the entropy sample before submitting it to the Linux or FreeBSD kernel for other programs to use via /dev/random.
Common devices to use as the NetRNG server
- PC Engines ALIX
- Various server mainboards
- Any machine with a TPM chip onboard
- Any machine with an Entropy Key
There is very little actual configuration required for NetRNG, but until it is packaged and uploaded to PyPi you’ll need to manually clone the repository and package it for installation.
Feel free to install the generated package wherever you like, but /opt/NetRNG is the default where the bundled init/upstart script are pointed, so if you install the module somewhere else make sure to change them once they’re copied to /etc/.
I don’t advise installing the package in the main system python package directory, use a virtualenv to make things easier :)
Note: these instructions are written for Debian/Ubuntu and derivatives, you’ll need to determine the equivalent native package names for build-essential and python-dev.
The virtualenv activation is repeated on purpose in certain steps to ensure that someone who isn’t following the steps sequentially won’t accidentally install python modules in the global system (not being root helps here, but just in case…).
Clone the repo
cd ~/ git clone https://github.com/infincia/NetRNG.git
Create a virtualenv for NetRNG:
Setup build environment
Some NetRNG dependencies require building python C extensions, so we need to install a compiler and python development headers so they’ll build properly during installation of the NetRNG package:
apt-get install build-essential apt-get install python-dev
The wheel module is also needed to build NetRNG, so we install it in to the virtualenv:
source /opt/NetRNG/bin/activate pip install wheel
Build and install NetRNG
cd ~/NetRNG source /opt/NetRNG/bin/activate python setup.py bdist_wheel pip install dist/netrng*.whl
On some Linux distributions, rng-tools is installed by default. For others you will need to install it yourself.
On Ubuntu or Debian you can install it like this:
sudo apt-get install rng-tools
I have not tested NetRNG on FreeBSD, but rng-tools seems to support FreeBSD so it should work. You’ll need to install rng-tools from the ports collection.
Copy and rename the sample config file on all machines before use:
cp /opt/NetRNG/conf/netrng.conf.sample /etc/netrng.conf
The NetRNG server requires very little configuration on most systems, but the client requires setting the right server address and setting the mode to ‘client’.
The rest of the configuration should be fine unless you have a very slow HWRNG and need to tweak the data flow settings. The defaults send 2KB chunks of random data to each connected client as fast as possible. You can tweak sample_size_bytes if needed. This process may be automated in the future.
Run for testing
Since the compiled daemon script is available on your path while the virtualenv is activated, you can run it directly after the config file is determined to be correct:
source /opt/NetRNG/bin/activate netrngd
Long term use
I have written both Upstart and systemd scripts for netrngd.
If someone would like to contribute other types of init scripts I will gladly accept a pull request.
To use the the systemd script:
cp /opt/NetRNG/conf/netrng.service /etc/systemd/system/ systemctl daemon-reload systemctl start netrng
To use the Upstart script:
cp /opt/NetRNG/conf/netrng.conf.upstart /etc/init/netrng.conf service netrng start