Pseudorandom number generators (PRNGs) use deterministic mathematical algorithms to produce a sequence of numbers with good statistical properties. However, the sequences of numbers produced fail to achieve true randomness. PRNGs usually start with an arithmetic seed value. The algorithm uses this seed to generate an output value and a new seed, which is used to generate the next value, and so on.
The Java API provides a PRNG, the
java.util.Random class. This PRNG is portable and repeatable. Consequently, two instances of the
java.util.Random class that are created using the same seed will generate identical sequences of numbers in all Java implementations. Seed values are often reused on application initialization or after every system reboot. In other cases, the seed is derived from the current time obtained from the system clock. An attacker can learn the value of the seed by performing some reconnaissance on the vulnerable target and can then build a lookup table for estimating future seed values.
java.util.Random class must not be used either for security-critical applications or for protecting sensitive data. Use a more secure random number generator, such as the
Noncompliant Code Example
This noncompliant code example uses the insecure
java.util.Random class. This class produces an identical sequence of numbers for each given seed value; consequently, the sequence of numbers is predictable.
This compliant solution uses the
java.security.SecureRandom class to produce high-quality random numbers:
Compliant Solution (Java 8)
This compliant solution uses the S
ecureRandom.getInstanceStrong() method, introduced in Java 8, to use a strong RNG algorithm, if one is available.
MSC02-J-EX0: Using the default constructor for
java.util.Random applies a seed value that is "very likely to be distinct from any other invocation of this constructor" [API 2014] and may improve security marginally. As a result, it may be used only for noncritical applications operating on nonsensitive data. Java's default seed uses the system's time in milliseconds. When used, explicit documentation of this exception is required.
For noncritical cases, such as adding some randomness to a game or unit testing, the use of class
Random is acceptable. However, it is worth reiterating that the resulting low-entropy random numbers are insufficiently random to be used for more security-critical applications, such as cryptography.
MSC02-J-EX1: Predictable sequences of pseudorandom numbers are required in some cases, such as when running regression tests of program behavior. Use of the insecure
java.util.Random class is permitted in such cases. However, security-related applications may invoke this exception only for testing purposes; this exception may not be applied in a production context.
Predictable random number sequences can weaken the security of critical applications such as cryptography.
CVE-2006-6969 describes a vulnerability that enables attackers to guess session identifiers, bypass authentication requirements, and conduct cross-site request forgery attacks.
CWE-327, Use of a Broken or Risky Cryptographic Algorithm
CWE-330, Use of Insufficiently Random Values
CWE-332, Insufficient Entropy in PRNG
CWE-336, Same Seed in PRNG
CWE-337, Predictable Seed in PRNG