Context-based authentication is a method for transparently validating another
device’s legitimacy to join a network based on location. Devices can pair with
one another by continuously harvesting environmental noise to generate a random
key with no user involvement. However, there are gaps in our understanding of
the theoretical limitations of environmental noise harvesting, making it
difficult for researchers to build efficient algorithms for sampling
environmental noise and distilling keys from that noise. This work explores the
information-theoretic capacity of context-based authentication mechanisms to
generate random bit strings from environmental noise sources with known
properties. Using only mild assumptions about the source process’s
characteristics, we demonstrate that commonly-used bit extraction algorithms
extract only about 10% of the available randomness from a source noise process.
We present an efficient algorithm to improve the quality of keys generated by
context-based methods and evaluate it on real key extraction hardware.
Moonshine is a randomness distiller which is more efficient at extracting bits
from an environmental entropy source than existing methods. Our techniques
nearly double the quality of keys as measured by the NIST test suite, producing
keys that can be used in real-world authentication scenarios.

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