Early Unix rand() #unix

🕥︎ - 2024-03-12

I have mentioned The Unix Heritage Society mailing list before - fun stuff comes by on it from time to time.

Today Douglas McIlroy replied to a thread about the early Unix rand() routine and who had written a funny note in the documentation, recalling an early story of password breaking:

When Ken pioneered password cracking by trying every word in word lists at hand, one of the password files he found plenty of hits in came from Berkeley. He told them and they responded by assigning random passwords to everybody. That was a memorable error. Guessing that the passwords were generated by a simple encoding of the output of rand, Ken promptly broke 100% of the newly "hardened" password file.

Ken Thompson replied:

i wrote the generator.
dmr or rhm wrote the comment.

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