April 5, 2020

574 words 3 mins read

SQS as an Entropy Delivery System

SQS as an Entropy Delivery System

With the Raspberry Pi having a good hardware random number generator and virtual machines and containers potentially having so little, especially shortly after boot, it makes it a cheap source. Amazon’s SQS provides a fully managed, reliable message delivery system and it’s cheap, free at low volume. This seems like an excellent way to deliver Entropy to all your virtual infrastructure.

Sending Entropy to the Queue

Once you’ve created an SQS queue this python code will periodically (sleepfor) fetch the queue length if it’s below (lowwatermark) it will add (burstadd) messages to the queue, each message will contain 512 bytes of base64 encoded entropy.

import boto3
import pprint
import base64
import time

pp = pprint.PrettyPrinter(indent=4)
url = '' # put your Queue url here
lowwatermark = 10  # Start adding to the queue when Q has less than this in it
burstadd = 10  # Add this many items to the queue each time
sleepfor = 60 
sqs = boto3.client('sqs')
def send_ent():
    with open("/dev/hwrng", 'rb') as f:
        bytes = (f.read(512))
    message = base64.b64encode(bytes)
    text = message.decode('ascii')
    send = sqs.send_message(
    pp.pprint (send)

def get_qlength():
    response = sqs.get_queue_attributes(
    return response['Attributes']['ApproximateNumberOfMessages']

while True:
    qlength = get_qlength() # returns ascii good for printing bad for numeric comparisons
    qlengthint = int(qlength)
    if (qlengthint < lowwatermark):
        print ("Adding to the Queue.")
        i = 1
        while i <= burstadd:
            i += 1
        print ("Queue already has " + qlength + " Messages in it")
Receiving Entropy from the Queue using python

Leave the above script running on one or more Pi and it will keep your queue topped up ready for consumption. We can then fetch entropy and stir it into the pool (sending to /dev/random) at boot using the python below.

import boto3
import base64
sqs = boto3.client('sqs')
url = '' # put your Queue url here

response = sqs.receive_message(

# we only asked for one message so safe to use [0]
    message = response['Messages'][0]
except KeyError:
    print ('No Messages in the Queue')
    raise SystemExit
    # perhaps sleep and try again?

body = message['Body']
raw = base64.b64decode(body)
receipt_handle = message['ReceiptHandle']
# Messages should be deleted asap after receiving
print('Received and deleted message: %s' % message)
print('Message Body: %s' % body)
with open("/dev/random", 'wb') as f:
Receiving Entropy from the Queue using awscli

If you don’t want the trouble of installing python and the needed libraries you can run the following one liner at boot if you have awscli installed and configured

aws sqs receive-message --queue-url 'YOUR SQS URL HERE' |jq '.Messages[0].Body' |sed -e "s#\"##g" |base64 -d >/dev/random
Again using ent you can confirm you’re getting good quality entropy through end to end:
aws sqs receive-message --queue-url 'YOUR SQS URL HERE' |jq '.Messages[0].Body' |sed -e "s#\"##g" |base64 -d |ent
Entropy = 7.599510 bits per byte.

Optimum compression would reduce the size
of this 512 byte file by 5 percent.

Chi square distribution for 512 samples is 250.00, and randomly
would exceed this value 57.66 percent of the times.

Arithmetic mean value of data bytes is 126.2578 (127.5 = random).
Monte Carlo value for Pi is 3.294117647 (error 4.86 percent).
Serial correlation coefficient is -0.017790 (totally uncorrelated = 0.0).
You can score this higher by increaing the bytes sent in each message to 1k or you could just pull two messages.