The critics, however, have much to gain by drawing the public's attention away from the fact that we did it without spending a cent. The only resource expended on this project was the time it took to coordinate the effort. The rest, the actual computing power that went into cracking the code, came from computers that were sitting in labs and on desktops quietly idling away.
If a group of Netheads can break a message encoded with DES in only 4 months, how long would it take someone--a corporation, perhaps, or a hacker who knows where the money is--to crack one of those billion dollar transactions? How long would it take someone who had money to spend, and more to gain?
And remember, DESCHALL was still gaining speed when the key was found. It would only take us 59 days to do it again...
All in all, it was an interesting four months. Iowa State could've finished a little more strongly, perhaps, but that's no one's fault, not even the Romans'. It was truly an amazing effort of coordination, and congratulations and many thanks are due to all those who participated.
But nothing I can say could possibly compare with the satisfaction of knowing you played a part in this landmark event--not only was this the first ever publicly admitted crack of DES, it is also most certainly the largest case of distributed computing the world has seen to date. So, um, okay, I'll stop talking. :-)
Nevertheless, below is a list of those who were contributing to the greater glory of Iowa State. Credit where credit is due, yes? I give you therefore, in no particular order, the Iowa State University DESCHALL team...
And a special thanks to the ISU Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Their decision to let the client run on ten pentiums in their lab may not have turned the tide in the war against encryption, and alas, it may not have put us ahead of MIT in the stats, but it certainly gave me a sense of pride about my school!
RC5 - because DES was too easy.
So, did you miss out on all the fun of cracking DES? Or did you participate, following along with the stats anxiously from home, only to be gipped out of the $4,000 you thought you'd earned? Well, not to worry! DES may be broken and the prize claimed, but the battle for stronger encryption continues. As long as the government denies the self-evident truth that unrestricted encryption is essential for the development of an electronic free market, there will be keys for us to crack...
Now that the DES Challenge is over, many have turned their attention to RC5-32/12/7, the 56-bit implementation of RSA's popular variable-length RC5 encryption scheme. Although the key length is the same as that for DES, the decryption algorithm is a bit more involved, which is why it had taken a back seat to the Data Encryption Standard. But enthusiasm for distributed destruction of government-sanctioned illusions is high, and so, blood aboil, many of the supporters of all the groups that were competing for the $10,000 prize have focused now on the Bovine effort. The Bovine effort may have gotten off to a slow start, but the cracking of DES built up almost as much momentum as DES itself had, and when the goal was finally achieved, that momentum was quickly redirected...
(Note to the coordinators of distributed.net--on behalf of all the participants of DESCHALL, I would like to apologize most sincerely for crashing your web server the day Rocke announced that the key had been found... :-D)
The Bovine effort, we're told, is only the first of many projects to be undertaken by the newly formed distributed.net. Although the cracking of 56-bit RC5 isn't as politically significant as the defeat of the much more common DES, this project has other features which make it very appealing. Check out the unofficial Iowa State RC5 page to learn more.
DESCHALL - the denouement
Are you still trying to come to terms with the fact that it's really all over? Can you just not bring yourself to move on? Well, not to worry, you're not alone. ;) The DES Challenge may be over, but its spirit lives on. Once the base of operations for the largest of the DES-crunching groups, the DESCHALL homepage continues to provide useful links that will help you keep up to speed with your encryption laws in the post-cracking media circus.
One last thank you to all those who helped make this project a success. Now get outta here, the show's over. Go find something else to break. Or go home and get some sleep. Better yet, turn of your computer and give it a rest--after all, it's been cracking keys for close to four months... Oh wait, you say it would've been running anyway? Hrm...
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|Last updated 1 July 1997||Stephen Langasek / firstname.lastname@example.org|