HOW A WALL OF LAVA LAMPS IS HELPING TO SECURE ELECTIONS
Cloudflare is using lava lamps to create random numbers for the cryptography that underlies its election security offering. “When you visit a website and a lock appears on your browser, it’s there through a cryptographic process that exists by being able to generate a random number,” says Matthew Prince, the firm’s CEO and co-founder.
But computers are bad at the ‘randomness’ important in cryptography, he says. “If that number is predictable in some way, an attacker can undermine the cryptographic system itself.” To overcome this, Cloudflare uses physical solutions doubling as art installations to generate random numbers.
In the San Francisco office, the installation is a wall of 100 lava lamps (below). “The movement of lava in the lamps is impossible to predict – it’s a chaotic system,” says Prince. “We film the lava lamps and any pixel that changes can be used as a source of randomness. We then feed this into the system generating random keys for all of Cloudflare’s network.”
In the London office they use a double pendulum. “Anything unpredictable can be a good source of randomness,” says Prince.