Pseudorandom function family
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (December 2012)|
In cryptography, a pseudorandom function family, abbreviated PRF, is a collection of efficiently-computable functions which emulate a random oracle in the following way: no efficient algorithm can distinguish (with significant advantage) between a function chosen randomly from the PRF family and a random oracle (a function whose outputs are fixed completely at random). Pseudorandom functions are vital tools in the construction of cryptographic primitives, especially secure encryption schemes.
Pseudorandom functions are not to be confused with pseudorandom generators (PRGs). The guarantee of a PRG is that a single output appears random if the input was chosen at random. On the other hand, the guarantee of a PRF is that all its outputs appear random, regardless of how the corresponding inputs were chosen, as long as the function was drawn at random from the PRF family.
A PRF is an efficient (i.e. computable in polynomial time) deterministic function that maps two distinct sets (domain and range).
Essentially a true random function would just be composed of a look-up table filled with random entries. However, in practice a PRF has only one input d (domain) and a hidden random seed (range) which when run multiple times with the same input, always outputs the same value. Nonetheless, given an arbitrary input the output looks random due to the random seed.
A PRF is considered to be good if its behavior is indistinguishable from a true random function. Therefore, given a true random function and a PRF, there should be no efficient method of determining if the output was produced by a true random function or the PRF.