librandombytes provides a simple API for applications generating fresh randomness: include <randombytes.h>, call randombytes(x,xbytes) whenever desired to generate fresh random bytes x[0], x[1], ..., x[xbytes-1], and link with -lrandombytes.

Random bytes are often used directly in applications. Random bytes are also the foundation of more complicated random objects, such as random integers in a limited interval, random floating-point numbers from a (nearly) normal distribution, and random keys used in public-key cryptosystems. librandombytes is dedicated to obtaining fresh random bytes in the first place, and leaves it to higher-level libraries to convert those bytes into other types of random objects.

librandombytes aims for the following stringent randomness goal: no feasible computation will ever be able to tell the difference between the output bytes and true randomness (independent uniformly distributed random bytes). This makes the randombytes() output suitable for use in applications ranging from simulations to cryptography.

Most alternative sources of randomness (such as rand() and random() in C, and mt19937_64 in C++) consider detectable deviations from true randomness to be acceptable as long as most applications do not notice the deviations. These sources are not permitted inside librandombytes; the randombytes() caller is entitled to expect that the output comes from sources that are designed for the right goal.

Internally, librandombytes is an abstraction layer for a choice of two libraries, where each library provides the same randombytes interface but the libraries choose two different sources of randomness:

The idea is that the OS can install librandombytes-kernel by default, but the sysadmin can install librandombytes-openssl to transparently switch all of the randombytes() applications to RAND_bytes (for example, via Debian's /etc/alternatives mechanism) if profiling shows that this switch is important for overall system performance.

Making this choice centrally means that applications are free to simply call randombytes()

Another virtue of having a randombytes() abstraction layer is that test frameworks can substitute a deterministic seeded randombytes() providing known pseudorandom bytes for reproducible tests. Of course, the randombytes() provided by these test frameworks must be kept separate from the fresh randombytes() used for deployment.

Version: This is version 2023.09.04 of the "Intro" web page.