Although the Mersenne Twister PRNG is by design not cryptographically secure many applications tend to use it for cryptographic operations. The mt_derand project provides code to invert the Mersenne Twister generator and obtain its internal state which in turn can be used to predict all future outputs of the generator.
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Mersenne Twister is one of the most popular pseudorandom number generators. Although the generator is by design not cryptographically secure many applications tend to use it for cryptographic operations. Specifically, many web applications tend to use Mersenne Twister as it is the default PRNG in the PHP core system. This led in many attacks in PHP applications in the past, see for example the paper:

"I Forgot Your Password: Randomness Attacks in PHP applications"

In a nutshell Mersenne Twister generator is a linear generator. This means that the generator can be expressed as a linear equation of its internal state or equally we can express its state transformation with a matrix multiplication on a matrix A and the state S. The matrix A is non-singular and therefore the inverse matrix A^{-1} can give us back the internal state from the output of the generator. However, most of the times, particularly in web applications the output of the generator is truncated and the attacker is able to obtain only a few bits of each output word. This breaks the trivial technique of obtaining the internal state described above.

The MTDerand code implements the state recovery attack described in the paper. In order to bypass this problem, we express each bit of the output as a linear quation over the internal state bits. Then, enough outputs will give us the internal state of the generator. Since the equations we will obtain might be different over different applications and even different seeds of the generator, an online version of gaussian elimination is implemented were equations are added as obtained by the applications and when enough information is gathered we solve the system uniquely and recover the internal state.

Generators supported

The Mersenne Twister is used under many different variations to produce different PRNGs. For example, PHP and python both use the Mersenne Twister but the output is different due to variations of the generators. In particular, the PHP generator resembles the original MT19937 generator but has minor differences due to a bug in the code. The MTDerand code supports both the original MT19937 generator and the PHP variation of the generator.


In order to use the API to the derandomization system there are two main systems:

Derand: This is the server side of the system, implementing the aforementioned attack. It accepts output bits from the generator and when enough bits are obtained returns the internal state of the generator at the time the first bit was received. Since Gaussian elimination can be an expensive procedure, the derand binary runs as a server application which bounds to a specified port (defaults at port 8080) and accepts the generators bits over the network. This way, the server can be mounted on a fast system accepting outputs from a client over the internet. The file contains the python API which is to be used as a client for the derandomization server. It exports the MTDerandClient and MTRand classes. The MTDerandClient contains all the necessary methods to invert the Mersenne Twister generator and then use the reconstructed state of the generator while the MTRand class contains both the MT19937 generator and the PHP generator. For details in how to use the client consult the code at file.


To build the system run

$ make $ make test

The second command will run a number of tests to ensure that the derandomization system works properly.

Afterwards, the derandomization server should be executed.

$ ./derand --help

This will print a help menu with available options. By default the server will bind at port 8080 and use the MT19937 generator. To use the PHP generator the --php option should be used.

$ ./derand --php

Finally, the exploits coded in python can use the module by importing the necessary classes in order to use the MTDerand server. For example the code

from derand import MTDerandClient,MTRand

allow to use both important classes of the client which provide an easy interface to the derandomization server. Afterwards, one can simply feed the interface outputs of the generator and when enough outputs are collected the MTDerandClient internal generator will receive a copy of the target generator's internal state which can then be used to produce the same outputs as the target generator.


This software was written based on research funded by the ERC project CODAMODA and is released under the New BSD License.

Final Comments

The release of this code was scheduled for 2012, however due to various reason the relase was greatly delayed. Apologies to all people urged to use this code :).

In addition, this code is still in testing phase. There will be additions to improve both performance and documentation of the code in the following months.