Headshot of Kuiper with lava lamp wall.


Zoomed out view of Kuiper with lava lamp wall.

Kuiper helps keep the Internet secure by visiting Cloudflare.

Did you know that 10% of the security on the Internet is powered by a single wall of lava lamps? Far out! Special thanks to Cloudflare for allowing Kuiper to stop by their office in San Francisco.

For various reasons I don’t have space to explain today, Internet security requires generating lots and LOTS of random numbers. Unfortunately, despite their seemingly unpredictable behavior at times, computers are pretty bad at being random. At their core, computer programs (including “random number generators”) are really just long, complicated flowcharts.

You put in some input, and the computer checks it against its flowchart and gives you some output. It might not be the output you *wanted*, but after awhile you can kind of start to predict what you’re going to get. That’s great for sanity, but not great for security. Dig?

We can try to give the computer a REALLY long and REALLY complicated flowchart, and that helps a lot. Our output becomes much less predictable. However, if our input can be predicted, we still have a problem, because someone sneaky might be able to reverse engineer how our system works. And that would be a bummer.

So what’s truly unpredictable? Physical things. Real world examples of things that have been used as input to generate random numbers include ping-pong balls being blown around with air, Geiger counters clicking at radiation, electrical “noise”, and… lava lamps!¬†Cloudflare uses a video feed of this wall of lava lamps to generate input to keep their servers secure. We asked if we could add a little extra randomness to the feed by stopping by to photograph Kuiper with it, and they kindly granted us permission. ?

All in all, Cloudflare services about 10% of Internet traffic. Next time you call an Uber, look for love on OkCupid, read an article on Medium, chat on Discord or slack off on Reddit, thank a hard-working lava lamp. Groovy, huh?

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bq7pOoQhDMg/

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