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ECC2-109 Winners Certified

CowboyNeal posted about 10 years ago | from the stamp-of-approval dept.

Encryption 133

An anonymous reader writes "The ECC2-109 encryption challenge has now been broken and certified! Certicom announced on Tuesday that the winners, a team from Ars Technica and a member of TeamIMO, will both receive $2500 each for the matching distinguished pairs that has solved the elliptical curve encryption scheme."

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133 comments

Hmmm... (5, Funny)

thewiz (24994) | about 10 years ago | (#8877696)

$2,500 for breaking an encryption scheme. I wonder what SETI@Home will pay me for discovering an extraterrestrial...

First off (4, Funny)

Rooked_One (591287) | about 10 years ago | (#8877705)

Nasa will be the one awarding your prize... A pair of handcuffs, followed by a rag soaked with ether. After that you will just undergo lots of brainwashing, and you pretty much get the idea from there. :)

Re:First off (5, Funny)

WwWonka (545303) | about 10 years ago | (#8877865)

Nasa will be the one awarding your prize... A pair of handcuffs, followed by a rag soaked with ether.

Hmmm, I received the same treatment visiting the Neverland Ranch when I was young.

Re:First off (1)

Eosha (242724) | about 10 years ago | (#8878207)

And so we are forced to conclude that NASA and Michael Jackson are working together to keep the aliens secret.

Re:First off (1)

Snover (469130) | about 10 years ago | (#8878604)

I'm not sure, but that might be because Michael Jackson IS an alien. His cosmetics don't seem to be doing much good to hide his true appearance these days, though...

Re:First off (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877878)

mmmmmm...ether....

AS MUCH AS I PAYED YOUR FUCKING MOM BITCH (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877734)

fucking jew nigger raghead FOAD

A little help? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877910)

I just took the asvab and i got a 73 is that good? I havent been told what MOS i got. My mom is scared I will be put in Infantry.

Re:A little help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878741)

I just took the asvab and i got a 73 is that good?

Some people in my high school class made around there, and they were told that was a good score.

I scored 98.

Wow. (0)

LordK3nn3th (715352) | about 10 years ago | (#8877701)

The ECC2 Challenge, sponsored by Certicom, began in November 2002, and the gross CPU time used to solve the challenge was roughly equivalent to an Athlon XP 3200+ working nonstop for 1,200 years. This victory is especially notable because it is the biggest ECC encryption challenge ever solved and will likely remain so for a while since the next challenges are an order of magnitude larger and would require years to complete using current processors.

That's some pretty hardcore encryption.

Re:Wow. (3, Interesting)

joe90 (48497) | about 10 years ago | (#8877766)

So I guess the moral of the story is to not use this Certicom encryption system for valuable information - it's trivially brute-forceable, for a sufficiently motivated organisation.

Hmm, 1200 years of CPU time for a commodity PC, or to put it another way, as little as 1.5 weeks with 50,000 PC's - a cost of less than $5,000,000 in total costs to brute-force.

Re:Wow. (0, Redundant)

LordK3nn3th (715352) | about 10 years ago | (#8877847)

Oh, yep! 50,000 PCs (Athlon 3200+s)working together nonstop! Only one week?! What a simple task! Why, I'll just pull out 5 million (chump change, really) and get to work on my 50,000 PCs!

Re:Wow. (4, Informative)

NotAnotherReboot (262125) | about 10 years ago | (#8877851)

Well, obviously you adjust your encryption to what you think people will be throwing at it. That goes without saying.

Like it said, the next one is not expected to be cracked for some time because it is far more complicated to brute force.

If it's valuable- determine how valuable it is to others, and encrypt based on that plus some.

For instance, this would work fine for credit cards, seeing as the cost of cracking the number would be far greater than the cost of processing power. Most of the time, however, it is far easier to avoid encryption altogether and hit those who do not bother.

Re:Wow. (3, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 10 years ago | (#8878241)

Better just to use overkill"encryption all the time. EG instead of thinking long and hard about whether it would be worth cracking something encrypted with DES, just use 3DES all the time and save your brainpower for something else.

Re:Wow. (2, Interesting)

KrisHolland (660643) | about 10 years ago | (#8878576)

"Well, obviously you adjust your encryption to what you think people will be throwing at it. That goes without saying."

How are you going to adjust your encryption when quantum computers will make most encryption schemes obsolete?

Re:Wow. (1)

Ckwop (707653) | about 10 years ago | (#8878913)

"How are you going to adjust your encryption when quantum computers will make most encryption schemes obsolete? "

Why FUD my friend? This just isn't true!

The truth about quantum cryptography is that RSA and DH will be destroyed by quantum cryptography. This is due to the work of Shor [psu.edu] who famously proved that you could factor in cubic time.

This sounds bad but we've already had good success [lanl.gov] in performing quantum key exchanges (that are unbreakable in a theoretical sense).

What does this mean for symmetric cryptography such as AES? Well, Quantum Computers that deploy Grover's algorithm [arxiv.org], can search unordered lists in under sqrt(n) operations. A normal computer does this in an average of n/2 steps. The key space of a cipher is an unordered list so we'd only have to double our keysizes to avoid the "Grover attack".

Clearly more research is needed but the quantum future is bright as far as cryptography is concerned.

Simon.

Re:Wow. (5, Interesting)

Deraj DeZine (726641) | about 10 years ago | (#8877880)

I wonder what would happen if China began requiring all computers in the country to run some unspecified distributed application.

Not trolling, just musing. I doubt such a thing would happen in any country.

Re:Wow. (4, Informative)

rasafras (637995) | about 10 years ago | (#8877906)

This is a small key size for the scheme. On the website they have other challenges posted where the key size is four or eight times as long, which are deemed 'infeasible'. This was not a completely realistic security test of the ECC algorithm, they expected it to be solved.
If this was used for real data, the key would be much longer and it would take probably a few billion years to solve.

Re:Wow. (0, Offtopic)

randyest (589159) | about 10 years ago | (#8878098)

Re: your sig.

I followed the link, saw the desert eagle wood carving [jhu.edu] and thought "cool -- nice work!"

Then I went up a few dirctories (you may want to check your .htaccess and.or apache config files) and saw all the effort you put into many "happy birthday ${female_name}" images.

They're very pretty, but I wonder: did you ever get any tang out of those, or was it all done "for art's sake"?

I only ask because I saw a few "Happy Valentine's Day" images as well, but none of those had names.

Re:Wow. (1, Interesting)

rasafras (637995) | about 10 years ago | (#8878134)

My website is open to all. As for the birthday images, that's a negative on the tang. I knew I should've used more lensflare and drop shadow. Honestly, though, I just do those because I often have nothing better to do. And then I can at least make somebody a little happier for a little while?

And screw you, offtopic mods. I'll talk about what I want to talk about. My karma can take it.

Re:Wow. (0, Offtopic)

Jad LaFields (607990) | about 10 years ago | (#8878183)

Man, I misread your shortening of "poontang" to "tang" as the Kool-Aid-like powdered drink mix stuff. "Art made out of Tang(tm)? I gotta check this out!" Then all I found were images like this [jhu.edu]. Damn. Although this [jhu.edu] one was pretty funny.

Yep, I'm headed straight for that offtopic mod, too.

Umm... breaking encryption is cool! Especially if you get paid for it!

PARENT IS COMPLETE AND UTTER NONSENSE (5, Informative)

Paul Crowley (837) | about 10 years ago | (#8878881)

ECC ("this Certicom encryption system") has turned out to be exactly as hard to break as Certicom and everyone else expected - if anything, the results of this challenge increase our confidence in it.

109 bits was deliberately chosen to be short enough to break. The next challenge is 131 bits, which is also considered breakable (though it will be about 2048 times harder).

After that, you get on to the "Level II" challenges, which are not considered breakable. They start at 163 bits, the least recommended for real use, and would be about 140 billion times harder to break.

I worry about the /. moderators sometimes...

Re:Wow. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877836)

I just humped you sister... yes she really was worth the Wow statement

Re:Wow. (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 10 years ago | (#8877891)

and would require years to complete using current processors.

That's why I gave up on RC5-72. Even if computers continue to double every 2 years, it would still take much over a couple decades before they ever complete the contest. The extra burden it would put on CPU's must amount to several hundreds of thousands of dollars in power consumption. Hardly worth it for a $10,000 price to one individual.

Now, unless someone spends the money to build a custome RC5 decryption hardware using massively parallel programmable gate array logic chips or similar this will never be completed.

I think we get the point, encryption is hard to break.

But... (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | about 10 years ago | (#8878313)

Yeah, but obviously it wasn't hardcore enough. If that encrypted message happened to be my email, I wouldn't be a very happy chap.

Re:Wow. (2, Interesting)

spectrokid (660550) | about 10 years ago | (#8878806)

If you count 100 Watts for one of these athlons, you end up with 1025280 kWh of electrical power going in this. Even in Canada, where power is cheap (4.72/kWh) you get a total cost of 48393,216 $ CAN in power consumption alone. Kind of puts things in perspective.

bah (5, Informative)

wviperw (706068) | about 10 years ago | (#8877706)

Only $2500? Some of the contests I've seen (namely having to do with the RSA encryption scheme) have been offering prizes upwards of 100 grand IIRC.

I bet the computing time just to break the code probably costed a wee bit more than $2500.

Re:bah (4, Informative)

stienman (51024) | about 10 years ago | (#8877793)

This contest was $10,000. Half went to the project maintainers, and then half of the remainder (1/4) is given to each of the people who found the collision.

So the individuals got $2,500, and whoever put the project together and hosted it got $5,000.

-Adam

Re:bah (4, Informative)

Bobdoer (727516) | about 10 years ago | (#8877820)

One of the other crypto distributed computing projects that's testing a higher level on encryption is only giving away $1,000 to the winner out of the $10,000 coming from RSA. Here's Distributed.net [distributed.net]'s cash distribution:
$1000 to the winner
$1000 to the winner's team (or to the winner if not on a team)
$6000 to a non-profit organization chosen by all participants
$2000 to distributed.net for building the network and supplying the code

And as ECC2-109 in being run by the company that owns the process, the costs of running the severs that support the project are not factored into the prize distrobution.

Re:bah (2, Insightful)

Grant29 (701796) | about 10 years ago | (#8877821)

I'll take it any day.. What's my loss? My computer's always on, so I guess I'm burning some electricity and lost CPU cycles. But it's probably cheaper than the lottery and I'm sure it's got about the same odds. At least you are donating something towards research. In the end, the contest host always wins, but it's a way for the USA to advance our tech research.

--
Retail Retreat [retailretreat.com]

Re:bah (3, Informative)

AArmadillo (660847) | about 10 years ago | (#8877852)

Many of the problems worth lots of money from RSA are significantly harder than this one is. For example, it took distributed.net almost 5 years to solve RC5-64, worth $10000. The RSA factoring challenges worth lots of money are also extremeley difficult problems; the top one (2048 bits for $200,000) would probably take several thousand years even if every machine on the planet constantly worked on it and nothing else.

Re:bah (1)

Paul Crowley (837) | about 10 years ago | (#8878841)

I don't have the figures here to do the sums, but off the top of my head I'd say that's an underestimate for the difficulty of breaking 2048-bit RSA using current algorithms.

wow, who cares? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877708)

i certainly don't.

How to get the prize money up... (4, Funny)

api_syurga (443557) | about 10 years ago | (#8877726)

1) Put the decryptors in a remote island
2) Make them wear skimpy clothing
3) get them to compete in small subgames, such as
blow the fish up etc..
4) Get an affable good looking host to..err host..
5) Get cameman to zoom in on their mental games an
anguish as they try their best to out-decrypt the
other contestants.

voila..$1Million Cash Prize

Re:How to get the prize money up... (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | about 10 years ago | (#8877786)

Nahhhh.

Have you watched any reality TV? It may be reality but its reality for stupid people.

Anything intellectual means immediate ellimination. Dumb as a brick eye-candy stays and rates highly. Hypocrisy, backstabbing, lack of general knowledge and an overinflated ego equate to bonus points.

Pretty + dumb + egotistical + hypocrit + backstabbing = "reality"

Re:How to get the prize money up... (5, Funny)

nadda (613664) | about 10 years ago | (#8877890)

Anything intellectual means immediate ellimination. Dumb as a brick eye-candy stays and rates highly. Hypocrisy, backstabbing, lack of general knowledge and an overinflated ego equate to bonus points.

I think my work place must be a reality show.

Re:How to get the prize money up... (1)

a whoabot (706122) | about 10 years ago | (#8877936)

+ screened and groomed "contestants" + directing + makeup + content controlled + advertisements + etc.

Reality for not just stupid people. Reality for vapid, stupid people.

I'm pretty sure, I mean, at least I think, the last time I was in reality there wasn't a director there telling me "yeah, that's good, do that." Nor a makeup artist touching me up for the "personal" aside.

Re:How to get the prize money up... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878077)

Wow, what is it that you have against reality tv that makes you so jaded? Did your entry tape miss the deadline? Or are you just THAT upset about not being picked to play a game for a million dollars that you think you could win?
Want to talk about "reality"? Well, in "reality" your pasty white ass wouldn't be able to outrun the oldest female on the show and you'd look like the complete uber-nerd while being voted off the first show. All you would do is complain about how the show is not what it's cracked up to be behind the scenes, but your complaining would be drowned out by the boo's you'd recieve for being such an idiot to think otherwise in the first place.

I enjoy some of what reality tv has to offer because I find it to be as entertaining as any other tv show that's on. Do I really care if what I'm watching is real or not? no. Don't bash my survivor just cause you think it will make you popular in your own fucked up view of reality.

So STFU, the tribe has spoken.

Re:How to get the prize money up... (1)

a whoabot (706122) | about 10 years ago | (#8878367)

Nothing. No, it didn't. No, I'm not. Yeah, sure, I mean, I already started, didn't I? Is that so hard to infer?

I'm certain that it would be exactly like it's "cracked up to be": shit.

If you think tv is entertaining you could definitely get out some more. Your idea of entertainment is sitting numb in front a sign-consumption box? Wow. I want to hang out with you. That sounds like a lot fun.

What emotional bound is it that you have with reality TV that makes you so jaded? Did you recieve your life's greatest pleasure from the symptomatic life that you "experienced" through your preverse non-voyeurism? Are you THAT upset that I've brought to light the fact to you that not everyone is satisfied with stimulation by banal obscenity?

I like how you created a projected other as me. That was a nice touch. It really displays the depth and force of the argument you have against me when you have to reify your mental other as me to argue against.

Re:How to get the prize money up...Reality TV? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878783)


- Donald Trump per episode (first season) 'The Apprentice' $50,000.00
- Donald Trump per episode (next season) 'The Apprentice' $215,000.00
- Britney Spears reality show per episode $1,000,000.00
- Exercises in F2m elliptic curve discrete log computation intended to probe the limits of a particular cryptography system $2,500

Need we say more?

Re:How to get the prize money up...Reality TV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878807)

Don't forget Bill Gates!

$4.29 Million per Day!

Damn hackers (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877739)


Someone call Ashcroft.

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Re:Damn hackers (3, Funny)

momerath2003 (606823) | about 10 years ago | (#8878123)

I don't think you can "call" a mail address.

Re:Damn hackers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878398)

Actually you can. Use VoIP, over Avian Carriers, inside mailed boxes

The A HREF="http://www.certicom.com/index.php?act (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877761)

The contest website [certicom.com] doesn't mention a $1M prize, but from the "details" pdf [certicom.com], it looks like you can earn the $1M prize by solving 19 smaller problems, each with their own bounty. $30k for an "infeasable" problem seems a little low to me... I imagine the mob may pay more ;-)

From the pdf: The 109-bit Level I challenges are feasible using a very large network of computers. The 131-bit Level I challenges are expected to be infeasible against realistic software and hardware attacks, unless of course, a new algorithm for the ECDLP is discovered.

The Level II challenges are infeasible given today's computer technology and knowledge. The elliptic curves for these challenges meet the stringent security requirements imposed by existing and forthcoming ANSI banking standard


Challenge Field-size(in-bits) Estimated-number-of-machine-days Prize(US$)
Elliptic curves over f2^m - Exercises:
ECC2-79 79 352 Handbook of Applied Cryptography & Maple V software
ECC2-89 89 11278 Handbook of Applied Cryptography & Maple V software
ECC2K-95 97 8637 $ 5,000
ECC2-97 97 180448 $ 5,000

Level I challenges:
ECC2K-108 109 1.3 x 10 6 $ 10,000
ECC2-109 109 2.1 x 10 7 $ 10,000
ECC2K-130 131 2.7 x 10 9 $ 20,000
ECC2-131 131 6.6 x 10 10 $ 20,000

Level II challenges:
ECC2-163 163 6.2 x 10 15 $ 30,000
ECC2K-163 163 3.2 x 10 14 $ 30,000
ECC2-191 191 1.0 x 10 20 $ 40,000
ECC2-238 239 2.1 x 10 27 $ 50,000
ECC2K-238 239 9.2 x 10 25 $ 50,000
ECC2-353 359 1.3 x 10 45 $ 100,000
ECC2K-358 359 2.8 x 10 44 $ 100,000

Elliptic curves over Fp - Exercises:
ECCp-79 79 146 Handbook of Applied Cryptography & Maple V software
ECCp-89 89 4360 Handbook of Applied Cryptography & Maple V software
ECCp-97 97 71982 $ 5,000

Level I challenges:
ECCp-109 109 9.0 x 10 6 $ 10,000
ECCp-131 131 2.3 x 10 10 $ 20,000

Level II challenges:
ECCp-163 163 2.3 x 10 15 $ 30,000
ECCp-191 191 4.8 x 10 19 $ 40,000
ECCp-239 239 1.4 x 10 27 $ 50,000
ECCp-359 359 3.7 x 10 45 $ 100,000

In what way is that an href? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878099)

well?

Why the challenge? (3, Insightful)

kentsin (225902) | about 10 years ago | (#8877774)

Just one crack is enough? Or shall we wait for better crack? To find if the method have weakness, we should open for more easy crack forever.

The current scheme does not encourage a better crack. Or expose the method for fully tested.

It will be very dangerous if the I.T. security is based on such a weak test system. Especially when many policy maker buy these security protection without aware of full picture.

In the real world, people grant trust based on the information they got from the media, the more mentation these on the news, the more they will trust a system. It is extreamly danger. Especially when digital security is going mainstream.

That's great, but (3, Funny)

Gizzmonic (412910) | about 10 years ago | (#8877782)

What about the ED-209 winners? Remember, that robot from Robocop?

No, not that one, that was Robocop. The other one. He was all robot. He didn't have Robocop's human side. But he did have some cool machine guns.

Re:That's great, but (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878016)

No no ED-209 had a criminal's brain in him. Robocop had a cop's brain in him.

Jeez.

Re:That's great, but (2, Funny)

GileadGreene (539584) | about 10 years ago | (#8878323)

The original ED-209 was a pure robot. The Robocop-2 movie was the one that involved criminal brains in robots. Please drop your incorrect criticism of the parent post. You have 15 seconds to comply...

...

You now have 10 seconds to comply...

...

You now have 5 seconds to comply...

...

what's wrong with the world today? (2, Funny)

grammar nazi (197303) | about 10 years ago | (#8877791)

Certicom announced on Tuesday that the winners, a team from Ars Technica and a member of TeamIMO, will both receive $2500 each for the matching distinguished pairs that has solved the elliptical curve encryption scheme."
The grammar nazi says, "Tsktsk!"
...will each receive $2500 for matching distinguished pairs that have solved...

grammar nazi needs a new day job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877909)

...will each receive $2500 for matching distinguished pairs that have solved...

Sorry, you're wrong, it's:
...will each receive $2500 for the matching distinguished pairs that have solved...

Re:what's wrong with the world today? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 10 years ago | (#8879025)

I don't suppose there's any chance of /. giving you a full time job is there?

Sorry, I don't know what came over me there.

faggots (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877830)

eat shit

^ FIRST COMMENT THAT HAS MADE ANY SENSE AT ALL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877877)

FUCK ALL OF YOU

That's a lot of processing (5, Insightful)

haxeh (766837) | about 10 years ago | (#8877868)

Now let's run the same test, but instead of attacking the algorithm, let's see how many hours it takes to social engineer the key :)

Re:That's a lot of processing (4, Funny)

SHEENmaster (581283) | about 10 years ago | (#8878154)

"Is it 0x000001?"
"No."
"Is it 0x000002?"
"No."
"Is it 0x000003?"
"No."
"Is it 0x000004?"
"No." ...
"Is it 0x0002FD?"
"If I tell you, will you shut up?"
"Yes."

The decrypted message (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877955)

"Annie says: don't forget to drink your Ovaltine."

But more importantly: (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | about 10 years ago | (#8878329)

Why do they call it Ovaltine? It comes in a round can... you drink it from a round cup... ah, forget it.

Distinguished points (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877962)

The solution was achieved through a collision of distinguished points found by Glenon from Ars Technica and a team member from TechIMO, both of whom will be receiving a prize of US$2,500. The ECC2 Challenge, sponsored by Certicom, began in November 2002, and the gross CPU time used to solve the challenge was roughly equivalent to an Athlon XP 3200+ working nonstop for 1,200 years. This victory is especially notable because it is the biggest ECC encryption challenge ever solved and will likely remain so for a while since the next challenges are an order of magnitude larger and would require years to complete using current processors.

Quick: Serial for turbotax? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8877990)

D035 @Ny0n3 G07z @ 53rI@L5 0r cR@CkZ f0r 7urb07@x!!!
I'v3 G07 14 MiNu735 70 l0@D i7 uP @Nd g37 My 7@X3$ DoNe!

Re:Quick: Serial for turbotax? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878002)

me too!!!

X3WJB-3B2BH-3MPM6-8F6GR-X9HBJ (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878028)

Re:X3WJB-3B2BH-3MPM6-8F6GR-X9HBJ (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878105)

Damn. That's my root password. Damn again.

Re:X3WJB-3B2BH-3MPM6-8F6GR-X9HBJ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878333)

X3WJB-3B2BH-3MPM6-8F6GR-X9HBJ
Or is this the secret CDKey for Windows Longhorn?

Quick tax question (1)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | about 10 years ago | (#8878039)

Last year I got married, but the marriage was annulled the following day. Do I file jointly with my wife (of 36 hours) or do I still file with the Single filing status?

I'm hoping I can still file single, because the girl I married is in a higher tax bracket than me due to music royalties.

Odds are that (3, Funny)

dj245 (732906) | about 10 years ago | (#8877997)

team from Ars Technica and a member of TeamIMO, will both receive $2500 each for the matching distinguished pairs that has solved the elliptical curve encryption scheme."

I bet $2500 that the other half of each of the team's "matching distinguished pairs" will:

1. Go shopping for shoes
2. Go shopping for jewelry
3. Go shopping gor shoes AND jewelry

Unless they are single, there is no way this gets spent on hardware.

Re:Odds are that (1)

Eosha (242724) | about 10 years ago | (#8878232)

Unless they are single

How many NON-single guys would put that much time into decrypting this thing?

Re:Odds are that (1)

thogard (43403) | about 10 years ago | (#8878544)

5 in the row and carry the 1....
Oh, they don't do this by hand and its an excuse to keep the noisey computer on 24x7 incase you win the prise. Single guys don't need an excuse to keep the computer(s) on 24x7

anuses cheeses (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878003)

Brute force (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878059)

Is it just me, or is there no real point to these encryption challenges? Brute forcing one particular key doesn't help you attack the encryption algorithim in general, and we can already calculate about how long it will take to crack with current processors. Other than the prize money, there is no reason to participate (except maybe for bragging rights, but finding an algorithmic flaw would get you so much more). Perhaps the prize money and CPU time might be better spent searching for a cure for cancer? I know there's a distributed computing project out there that does just that (no link right now, I'm lazy), and this *is* a case where the computers are just as good at calculating numbers for cracking encryption as calculating numbers for saving lives.

Re:Brute force (1)

wmspringer (569211) | about 10 years ago | (#8878212)

It's just you. :-)

But seriously, the challenges draw attention to the encryption algorithm being used. The company gets to point at it and say "See, it took ALL THAT power to break our encryption! We're really, really, secure!"

Which probably means a lot more to many managers than "we calculate that breaking the encryption would be THIS hard."

Re:Brute force (1)

zabieru (622547) | about 10 years ago | (#8878217)

It's a publicity stunt, mostly. Also, it does provide an objective check on our theoretical analysis of the difficulty of the attack, but mostly it's so the company can turn around and say "Our encryption takes 1200 years to crack!" or "Our encryption takes $5000000 to crack!"

It serves a couple of purposes (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 10 years ago | (#8878554)

1) It gives you a real world baseline of what kind of current power it takes to break your keys. You can then make some educated projections about what kind of security these keys will offer in the future. Computing power has and continues to grow at a fairly predictable rate. Thus you can infer how long a specific level of key will take to crack at a given point in the future, assuming no new mathematical or processing systems. Which leads us to

2) It encourages people to try novel types of attacks. Yes, there are those that are just doing a brute attempte and they are there fore reason #1. However there are those that will try to come up with new algorithms, new hardware, or a combination, to defeat your encryption and prove it weak. This is what it's all about. You don't prove encryption strong, you continually prove that it's not weak, lending creedence to the theory that it is strong.

Re:It serves a couple of purposes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878802)

Sycraft, I don't buy your argument:

#1: The poster pointed out you can already calculate how long it will take to break with current processors. So what's the point of actually doing the computation?

#2: Encouraging new attacks is a good point. But then what benefit does brute forcing give? If anything it seems it diverts money away from people creatively trying to come up with new attacks.

I'd love to see more discussion on this... I'm currently using my CPU for Folding@Home and want to know if there's a better use for it. :)

Re:Brute force (1)

NonSequor (230139) | about 10 years ago | (#8878906)

As others say it provides a baseline. But it's also a means of promoting research related to cryptography. Some of the prizes cannot be won without a) a tremendous breakthrough in factoring algorithms, b) a tremendous breakthrough in computer hardware, c) a working quantum computer, or d) some combination of the above.

1,200 years of cpu time! (1, Funny)

Magickcat (768797) | about 10 years ago | (#8878194)

"... the gross CPU time used to solve the challenge was roughly equivalent to an Athlon XP 3200+ working nonstop for 1,200 years."

- Would that theoretical uptime be 1,200 years running Linux?

If this computer is running Windows, I think it needs to be put back on the Area 51 shelf next to the perpetual motion machines, hen's teeth and Tesla weapons.

You can do better stuff with CPU time! (4, Insightful)

enosys (705759) | about 10 years ago | (#8878285)

Trying to crack encryption with brute force is so pointless. I don't think it actually accomplishes anything useful. The length of time and amount of resources that are needed can be understood theoretically, without any need for running the experiment. The real threat to an encryption scheme is from new much faster methods cracking methods and these sorts of contests don't seem to encourage that; it's mostly about brute forcing it.

More importantly there are more useful distributed computing projects. Here is a pretty good index [aspenleaf.com]. For example there's Folding@Home [stanford.edu] which furthers our onderstanding of proteins, which are so important in so many life processes and diseases, and fightAIDS@home [scripps.edu] which has already found a promising new drug [aspenleaf.com]. Or how about SETI@home [berkeley.edu]? Trying to crack encryption by brute force seems like such a waste in comparison to these.

Perhaps the encryption contests are so popular just because you can win money. It's like a lottery. Maybe the only thing that could be done would be to have a cash prize for significant findings in other projects, or if who did it can't be defined due to the nature of the algorithm, maybe even just an ordinary lottery?

Re:You can do better stuff with CPU time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8878373)

Or how about SETI@home? Trying to crack encryption by brute force seems like such a waste in comparison to these.
Yes but we know how many keys there are and how long it will take. We also KNOW that giving enough time we will find the solution.
As opposed to SETI we have no fscking idea what we are looking for; let alone how long it will take.

The acronym SETI has intelligence as the "I" there may be gazillions of planets with life on them but no intelligence. There may be also gazillions of planets with intelligent life that are also looking for us but with the vast distances of the universe it might take 10,000 years for our/their messages to be found.

Re:You can do better stuff with CPU time! (1)

Cecil (37810) | about 10 years ago | (#8878714)

SETI@home is a pointless waste of time. It is full of cheaters, and the entire SETI dataset has been gone over about twice now. They are ever, ever, ever-so-slowly developing a SETI v2.0, called "BOINC". If it's ever ready, maybe they'll let you know. If their servers aren't down. (Me? Bitter? Nah.)

Folding@home [standford.edu] has an even nobler goal, is much more competently run, and by participating you are really causing an immediate effect on current scientific projects and helping further our scientific understanding for every single work unit you complete.

Re:You can do better stuff with CPU time! (1)

thogard (43403) | about 10 years ago | (#8878536)

Trying to crack encryption with brute force is so pointless. I don't think it actually accomplishes anything useful.
Today on a list someone was talking about AES and DES and pulled some info off some web page that said AES would take a trillion years to crack if you could crack 256 keys a second. This sort of thing shows that people can crack random obscure systems in a few months and most of the sanke-oil encryption is worthless.

SeventeenOrBust (1)

tqft (619476) | about 10 years ago | (#8878766)

seventeenorbust.com - you can discover the a truly huge prime number if you are really lucky

Is this what /. has become? (2, Insightful)

futant138 (561675) | about 10 years ago | (#8878721)

It would appear that the technical/geek community on /. has little to say to articles like this. However, to the silliest shit posted get's incredible feedback. Most of it moderated funny. I come here everyday and I'm not sure why.

Brief explanation of elliptic curves (4, Informative)

NonSequor (230139) | about 10 years ago | (#8878851)

An elliptic curve is the set of solutions to a cubic equation in two variables on some field (a field is a set on which two operations which behave like multiplication and division are defined). The solutions form a cyclic group. A group is a set on which an operation is defined such that there is an identity element, every element has an inverse, and the associative property holds. In a cyclic group, if you "multiply" any element by itself enough times, you'll get the original element.

What makes all of this junk more interesting to computer people is that if you use a field with finitely many elements, you end up with some tools that can be used for things like factoring and other problems in number theory.

Elliptic curve cryptography is based around the discrete log problem. That is, you are given two elements of the group, a and b, you want to find what value of k makes a^k=b. This problem can be solved in polynomial time in some cyclic groups, but elliptic curve groups lack certain niceties that make solving the problem for them tough.

It is believed that elliptic curve cryptography will allow one to use significantly smaller keys than those needed by RSA without a loss of security.

Ellipticalifragilistical (1)

wildsurf (535389) | about 10 years ago | (#8878938)

...that has solved the elliptical curve encryption scheme.

Ahem; that should be elliptic.

just being pedantical.

Janitors and super computers. (3, Interesting)

Wellmont (737226) | about 10 years ago | (#8879009)

These contests were not designed by the encryption companies to have brute force used on them...Thus you have higher level challenges with "realistic" prizes. Sadly there is no reverse engineering when most of these teams think up their strategem, or even basic engineering for that matter. The RSA and eliptical encryption schemes were not thought up for mearly "normal" encryption....OBVIOUSLY if you have the key you have the file, but the underlying code (once encrypted) is meant to resemble nothing noticable, nothing useful to its cracking. Thus you have these contests, battles to see if people have a scheme, not brute force power.

Chances are they would want to find the one dude who thinks up a program that can hack that encryption to bits in 4 minutes instead of trying every password from here to "timbucktoo" on hundreds of computers at once just because you work the janatorial shift at the San Diego Super Computer Center.
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