Verification Codes

One would hope that verification codes would be extremely random. More randomness makes it harder for a malicious entity (person or computer) to guess the code. Less randomness makes it easier. With all the Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) out there, we hope there is enough randomness in these methods to make them unguessable by someone attempting to get into our accounts. But, like all security technology, the hackers get better and protections get easier to break over time.

There is a current temptation to record the codes my generators provide to see if there is a pattern. At least in the back of my head it “feels” like there might be one. My intuitions sometimes turn out true (confirmation bias) and usually do not (reality). If little ole me can see the pattern, then I am sure smarter people than I have seen it as well and maybe even have a way to anticipate the codes.

Algorithmic Random

Mac Keyboard
Mac Keyboard

If you are out on the Internet or around academics long enough, then you will run across the rant about random designed by humans not being really random. It might be the iTunes shuffle. It might be random sampling of an experiment. It might be a complaint of you using the word for how you spend your time online.

OK. I took that last one a bit too personal.

If a human is performing the random, then there probably is a pattern. But then in nature, things we call random typically have a pattern too. DNA mutations involve changed molecules at a position and chance that it has no bearing, disables the bearer, or gives the bearer an advantage. The lack of true randomness is a sign of intelligent design to some. And a sign that it is natural to others. Quantum mechanics. Encryption. Stock trading. Prediction. Truly random is unnatural. Well… It just means we have not yet figured out the pattern. Give us time.

Since random is the wrong word, how about algorithmic random or a-random for short. It just means a pattern-based approximation of random that is good enough for the purpose of acting random.