- Oct 6, 2005
Excerpt From AARP
How Lava Lamps Help Protect Your Data
They're at the heart of a groovy encryption method
by Randy Lilleston, January 8, 2018
… It’s true. A wall of 100 lava lamps, located in the lobby of the San Francisco headquarters for internet service and security company Cloudflare, is part of a Rube Goldberg–like method to securely encrypt data. And it's a lot of data: Cloudflare says it handles more than 10 percent of all http and https traffic …
Video of the lamps is fed to a computer and converted into data, which is then used to generate random numbers …
Cloudflare calls its invention the Entropy Wall and uses it as a backup to more traditional encryption methods …
The flow of the “lava” (actually a wax compound) in those lamps can potentially be affected by all sorts of factors — variances in room temperature, vibration from a nearby copy machine, someone touching a lamp, light bulbs in the bases that run hotter or colder than usual, or pretty much anything that can make the lava move. That throws a chunk of random real-world chaos into this digital process.
All of this is made digital by pointing a camera at the lamps and sending the feed into a computer. That feed is converted into data, which are then used to generate random numbers that serve as the basis for encryption.
Engineers at the company call the system LavaRand and point out that it’s not an original idea. Computer and software manufacturer Silicon Graphics proposed and patented the system in 1996, but that patent has expired …