Terminally Incoherent

Utterly random, incoherent and disjointed rants and ramblings...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Random Password Generator

Have you ever needed bunch of strong passwords to be generated on the fly? I sometimes need to generate bunch of one use, give it to a user who will then change it and throw it away passwords. Simplest method to get good randomness is to use /dev/random. Try doing this:

Szaman2@grendel ~
$ head -n 1 /dev/random

Of course /dev/random gives you bunch of garbage, but it is a fairly random garbage. As far as I know the output of /dev/random can possibly be broken, if the system haven't gathered enough entropy to generate truly random output. But for our purposes this is good enough. We just need to turn it into something that can be used as a password - hence all the funny ASCII marks, and control characters need to go:

Szaman2@grendel ~
$ head -c 6 /dev/random | uuencode -m -
begin-base64 644 -

Ah, we are getting warmer. Instead of a whole line I'm just grabbing 6 first characters. Uuencode converts all the garbage to readable ASCII. Unfortunately it produces the garbage above and below the actual randomized output. You can pick out the line in many ways. I decided to use sed:

Szaman2@grendel ~
$ head -c 6 /dev/random | uuencode -m - | sed -n '2p'

Tada! Only problem with this solution is that the script can still generate strings that include non alphanumeric characters such as /, +. ? or _. Some systems do not allow this type of passwords. This should not be a problem. Since I'm already using sed, I can easily include some regexp there to fix this:

Szaman2@grendel ~
$ head -c 6 /dev/random | uuencode -m - | sed -n '2s/[^a-zA-Z 0-9]//;2p'

So, here you have it. A randomized password generator that can be nicely fit into a shell script or a batch job.


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