What Does Nonce Mean?

A nonce is a type of data bit identification in IT security and other types of technical systems. It is a number or other data variable that is used only once.


Techopedia Explains Nonce

The nonce can be characterized as a "throwaway" bit of data that is a placeholder for specific security strategies. One major use is in authentication, where the nonce simply enumerates duplicate or identical data transmissions. For example, when duplicate transactions would have a negative effect on a system, the nonce makes the message unique, so that the system invalidates future messages with the same content.

The use of a nonce in security and authentication is similar to the use of a "nonce word," which is a word that is only used once.

The nonce has a set of valuable uses in different kinds of programming. There are many different cases where a variable needs to be used only once, for instance, to define a particular message, as mentioned above. The concept of the nonce remains the same regardless of what specific programming syntax is used. In this way, the nonce is like other programming concepts such as loops, arrays and classes.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…