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Random Number Generation

November 21, 2014: NIST requests your comments on the latest revision of NIST SP 800-90A, Recommendation for Random Number Generation Using Deterministic Random Bit Generators, which is dated November 2014. This document specifies Deterministic Random Bit Generators based on approved hash functions (as specified in FIPS 180-4), HMAC (as specified in FIPS 198-1) and block ciphers (as specified in FIPS 197 for AES, and SP 800-67 for TDEA). This revision removes the previously approved Dual_EC_DRBG that was based on the use of elliptic curves and includes a number of other changes that are listed in the final appendix of the document. Please submit comments to rbg_comments@nist.gov with "SP 800-90A comments" in the subject line by December 31, 2014.

Marked Up Copy of Draft SP 800-90A Rev. 1


Generally-speaking, there are two types of random number generators (RNGs):

  1. RNGs based on Deterministic Random Bit Generators (DRBGs), also known as Pseudorandom Number Generators, and
  2. RNGs based on Non-deterministic Random Bit Generators (NRBGs), also known as "True" Random Number Generators.

Approved Algorithms

Currently, there exists several Approved DRBGs, and no Approved NRBGs.

Deterministic Generators

FIPS 186-2, Digital Signature Standard (DSS), defines two deterministic techniques for generating numbers. See Appendices 3.1 and 3.2 and Change Notice #1 of FIPS 186-2. Note: FIPS 186-2 has been superceded by FIPS 186-3 and 186-4. The archived copy of FIPS 186-2 is available to reference the DRBGs contained therein.

ANSI X9.31 Appendix A.2.4 specifies a technique for generating pseudorandom numbers. This is the same technique (using DES) that was specified in Appendix C of ANSI X9.17.

ANSI X9.62-1998 Annex A.4 specifies an additional algorithm derived from FIPS 186.

SP 800-90A (revision 1), Recommendation for Random Number Generation Using Deterministic Random Bit Generators. This Recommendation specifies mechanisms for the generation of random bits using deterministic methods. The methods provided are based on either hash functions, block cipher algorithms or number theoretic problems.

Non-Deterministic Generators

There are no Approved NRBGs.

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Testing Products

Testing requirements and validation lists are available from the Cryptographic Algorithm Validation Program (CAVP).

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RNG Testing

NIST Special Publication 800-22rev1a, A Statistical Test Suite for Random and Pseudorandom Number Generators.

SP 800-22 provides a set of statistical tests for testing and evaluating deterministic and non-deterministic random number generators.

NIST has published an ITL Bulletin that summarizes SP 800-22.

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Additional Information

NIST maintains a general web page on Random Number Generation and Testing that contains links to documentation and code.

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RNG Workshop and Standards Development

A workshop on random number generation was held from July 19-22, 2004 at NIST. The following information is available for interested parties:

  1. Agenda
  2. RNG Development History
  3. RNG Standard Strategy
  4. X9.82, Part 1
  5. X9.82, Part 3
  6. Hash and Block Cipher-based DRBGs
  7. Number Theoretic DRBGs,
  8. X9.82, Part 2 (forthcoming)
  9. Entropy Sources
  10. Testing Issues with OS-based Entropy Sources
  11. Validation Testing and NIST Statistical Test Suite
  12. Block Cipher-based DRBGs

The permission to post the draft of X9.82 has expired; therefore, it is no longer available on this website. Comments received can be viewed here. Additional comments on the ANSI X9.82 and comments in general may be sent to ebarker@nist.gov or John.Kelsey@nist.gov.

Note: An algorithm or technique that is either specified in a FIPS or NIST Recommendation.