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# 11.19. Performing Entropy Estimation and Management

## Problem

You are collecting your own entropy, and you need to determine when you have collected enough data to use the entropy.

## Solution

At the highest level, the solution is to be incredibly conservative in entropy estimation. In the discussion, we will examine general practices and guidelines for particular sources.

## Discussion

Fundamentally, the practical way to look at entropy is as a measurement of how much information in a piece of “random” data an attacker can glean about your randomness infrastructure. For example, if you have a trusted channel where you get 128 bits of data, the question we are really asking is this: how much of that data is provided to an attacker through whatever data channels are available to him? The complexity of an attack is based on how much data an attacker has to guess.

Clearly, in the practical sense, a single piece of data can have different amounts of entropy for different people. For example, suppose that we use the machine boot time to the nearest second as a source of entropy. An attacker who has information about the system startup time narrowing it down to the nearest week still has a much harder problem than an attacker who can narrow it down to a 10-second period. The second attacker can try all 10 possible starting values and see if he gets the correct value. The first has far, far more values to try before finding the original value.

In practice, it turns out that boot time is often an even ...

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