random, urandom - kernel random number source devices
The character special files /dev/random and /dev/urandom (present since Linux 1.3.30) provide an interface to the kernel's random number generator. File /dev/random has major device number 1 and minor device number 8. File /dev/urandom has major device number 1 and minor device number 9.
The random number generator gathers environmental noise from device drivers and other sources into an entropy pool. The generator also keeps an estimate of the number of bit of the noise in the entropy pool. From this entropy pool random numbers are created.
When read, the /dev/random device will only return random bytes within the estimated number of bits of noise in the entropy pool. /dev/random should be suitable for uses that need very high quality randomness such as one-time pad or key generation. When the entropy pool is empty, reads to /dev/random will block until additional environmental noise is gathered.
When read, /dev/urandom device will return as many bytes as are requested. As a result, if there is not sufficient entropy in the entropy pool, the returned values are theoretically vulnerable to a cryptographic attack on the algorithms used by the driver. Knowledge of how to do this is not available in the current non-classified literature, but it is theoretically possible that such an attack may exist. If this is a concern in your application, use /dev/random instead.
The kernel's random number generator was written by Theodore Ts'o (firstname.lastname@example.org).
mknod(1), RFC 1750, "Randomness Recommendations for Security"