Search /
Advanced search  |  Help  |  Site map
Click for Layer 8! No, really, click NOW!
Networking for Small Business
Heartbleed bug is irritating McAfee, Symantec, Kaspersky Lab
Server makers rushing out Heartbleed patches
6 Social Media Mistakes That Will Kill Your Career
4 Qualities to Look for in a Data Scientist
Big bucks going to universities to solve pressing cybersecurity issues
Mozilla appoints former marketing head to interim CEO
Box patches Heartbleed flaw in its cloud storage systems
Obama administration backs disclosing software vulnerabilities in most cases
6 Amazing Advances in Cloud Technology
Collaboration 2.0: Old meets new
Data breaches nail more US Internet users, regulation support rises
With a Wi-Fi cloud service, Ruckus aims to help hotspot owners make money
How to get Windows Phone 8.1 today
Secure browsers offer alternatives to Chrome, IE and Firefox
10 Big Data startups to watch
Big data drives 47% growth for top 50 public cloud companies
Here are the options with Heartbleed-flawed networking gear (Hint: there aren't many)
Akamai admits its OpenSSL patch was faulty, reissues keys
Second Google Glass user attacked in San Francisco in two months
Microsoft puts the squeeze on Windows to shoehorn it into 16GB devices
An unnecessary path to tech: A Bachelor's degree
Heartbleed Bug hits at heart of many Cisco, Juniper products
iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending April 11

U.S. govt.'s encryption standard cracked in record time

Today's breaking news
Send to a friendFeedback

Researchers using a supercomputer built for $250,000 have broken the government's data encryption standard (DES) in less than three days. In a press conference last week, the researchers warned that their ability to crack DES suggests that terrorists and other miscreants undoubtedly also find it ridiculously easy to unscramble encrypted data.

Government officials and some industry experts have said that it would take millions of dollars to build a supercomputer powerful enough to crack DES encryption code.

The encryption-breaking research was conducted as part of the RSA Laboratory's DES Challenge II contest and was spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), non-profit civil liberties organization that deals with Internet privacy and security issues.

"We would like the government to finally admit that DES is not secure and to encourage stronger cryptography," said Barry Steinhardt, EFF president. The government has contended that it is not possible to build a computer that can break DES without enormous expense.

The EFF DES Cracker, as the supercomputer is called, was designed to break 56-bit encrypted code in record time. It accomplished that -- the previous record was 39 days using a huge network with tens of thousands of computers.

The U.S. government restricts exportation of technology beyond 40 bits and the researchers intended to show that even encryption that is stronger than that can be busted. Such security issues are likely to become greater as the cost of building supercomputers capable of breaking DES become less expensive, the researchers said.

"I could easily see where someone could do this as a science fair project in four or five or six years," said John Gilmore, leader of the EFF code-breaking project and co-founder of EFF.

It took Gilmore and Paul Kocher of Cryptography Research Inc. just 56 hours to figure out the key needed to read scrambled data, trying about a quarter of all of the possible key combinations. The researchers contend that ability debunks the government's arguments in favor of key recovery technology, which calls for a third-party to hold the "keys" to unscramble encrypted data.

"I believe that strong cryptography is the only way to protect ourselves," Kocher said at the press conference, where various of the code-breaking participants said that they believe that foreign governments, such as China, undoubtedly are routinely unscrambling encrypted data sent over the Internet.

DES is used in between one-third and one-half of the market for encryption products, according to data cited by EFF. Financial institutions tend to rely on the standard as does the satellite communications industry.

Those who use DES have long been aware of its potential to be cracked because they run risk assessments, the researchers said.

The team that built the DES-busting machine has not heard from the government regarding the successful unscrambling.


Apply for your free subscription to Network World. Click here. Or get Network World delivered in PDF each week.

Get Copyright Clearance
Request a reprint or permission to use this article.

NWFusion offers more than 40 FREE technology-specific email newsletters in key network technology areas such as NSM, VPNs, Convergence, Security and more.
Click here to sign up!
New Event - WANs: Optimizing Your Network Now.
Hear from the experts about the innovations that are already starting to shake up the WAN world. Free Network World Technology Tour and Expo in Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York.
Attend FREE
Your FREE Network World subscription will also include breaking news and information on wireless, storage, infrastructure, carriers and SPs, enterprise applications, videoconferencing, plus product reviews, technology insiders, management surveys and technology updates - GET IT NOW.