Federal agents typically used $1,100 computers to crack passwords to the seized hard drives of suspected child pornographers. Now they're using $300 PlayStation 3s to pull off the same task.
"Bad guys are encrypting their stuff now, so we need a methodology of hacking on that to try to break passwords," Claude E. Davenport, an agent in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center, told Joseph D. Szydlowski of the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. "The Playstation 3 - its processing component - is perfect for large-scale library attacks."
Here's the deal. Under the Fourth Amendment, suspects in the U.S. are not required to give up passwords they use to secure their information. But the Fourth doesn't cover cops cracking their way into hardware they lawfully seize under a search warrant. That's where the power computing comes in.
In the past, they'd use a Tableau/Dell server combination running about $1,100. Then they realized they could get the same computing power out of a PS3 for a quarter of the cost, roughly. So they throw networked consoles at the problem, to unravel the nearly 282 trillion possibilities in a six-digit password.
"You take the ability of a single person to throw a few passwords at it a minute to a few million a second," Neil Condon, vice president of Public Affairs for AccessData Corp., told SHFW. Condon's company does investigations.
Here's the funny part. While Condon said that any current-gen console is capable of the same power, the PS3 is used because you can install Linux on it. Guess they're using the old PS3 Phats. Go Phat! Go!!