RSA Data Security Inc. is offering a key-cracking challenge. The goal is to find the encryption key for a given algorithm and ciphertext (with some known plaintext).

At 9am on 28 January, the ISAAC Group started using the NOW clusters (and some other machines) to break a 40-bit key. This task was completed in just under 3.5 hours, earning us the $1000 prize.

For some perspective, keep in mind that 40-bit keys are the maximum allowed by export restrictions and therefore the industry default (though this particular algorithm is not currently in wide use). Thus if we can break a random key in just hours, then this is strong argument that the current restrictions are obsolete. (Not that we didn't know that already... :-) )

Since the probability that we will find the 48-bit key is somewhat low, unless we keep running for weeks, consider yourself free to renice or kill the cracker process (called "distributed", owned by iang) if you need the processor.

Thanks for the NOW!

Ian Goldberg, iang@cs.berkeley.edu