COMP: 48 bit challenge broken (fwd)

Alexander Chislenko (
Fri, 14 Feb 1997 11:38:30 -0500

------- Forwarded Message

Subject: BoS: 48 bit challenge broken


13 February 1997

Local contact: Germano Caronni,
[This press release originated from Melanie Harper]


Loosely organized international group checks a record 162082778549251
keys in 13 days to find correct solution

ZURICH: More than 5000 computers connected via the Internet have broken the
most difficult cryptographic challenge ever solved, in just over thirteen
days. The challenge was one of a series of cryptographic challenges recently
offered by RSA Data Security, Inc., a U.S. firm which produces cryptographic

The Internet group's successful attempt on the challenge, which is the
second record-breaking cryptographic challenge solution within the last two
weeks, demonstrates in a dramatic fashion that many encryption systems -- such
as those commonly used on the Internet, in electronic commerce, and in
so-called "Smart Cards" -- can be broken with relative ease using modern
computing techniques.

The challenge was solved by a loosely organized group of individuals from
around the world who banded together to create a project known as the
"Distributed Internet Crack." The group was begun by Germano Caronni,
member at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and quickly
grew to include hundreds of people, from commercial as well as academic
sites, who worked at a furious pace to write and optimize the necessary
software and then run it on thousands of computers simultaneously. The
group never met in person but communicated via email. Continuously
updated pages on the World-wide Web, available in four different
languages, provided the latest information and progress reports.

The Distributed Internet Crack first attacked the easiest of RSA's
challenges. The group solved this challenge in 3 1/2 hours, only minutes
after another group submitted the correct answer. After coming so close to
winning the first challenge, the group decided to take on the second one,
hundreds of times as difficult. The challenge required that up to
281474976710656 different keys be checked.

By putting the power of thousands of powerful and not-so-powerful computers
together via the internet, the second challenge was solved on Monday,
February 10th, a little over thirteen days after it was issued.

The successful completion of the challenge broke new ground in several ways:
Besides cracking the hardest key ever, the event also brought together the
most computers ever working on a single Internet project (over 5500 computers
were operating simultaneously at one point, and over 10,000 computers joined
in the project at one time or another), and produced the most cryptographic
keys ever checked per second in an openly publicized effort (over 440
million keys per second at peak, and an average of 140 million keys per
second over the entire project).

If the group would have re-attacked the 40 bit challenge with the computing
power it had at the end of this effort, that key would have been broken
within 45 minutes.

The group is now planning to attempt another challenge issued by RSA, this
time aimed at the DES cipher, which has been used in American and other
financial institutions for many years.


RSA Data Security Secret-Key Challenges:
Team Web Pages: and others.
IRC: #challenge
Preliminary Web page for DES challenge:

Note: Both long numbers in this document have exactly 15 digits.

- --NAA20572.855838366/

- --
<...cookie space for rent...>

Germano Caronni

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