By Mathew J. Schwartz
August 16, 2010
Passwords with fewer than 12 characters can be quickly brute-force
decoded using a PC graphics processing unit (GPU) that costs just a few
hundred dollars, according to researchers at the Georgia Institute of
"We've been using a commonly available graphics processor to test the
integrity of typical passwords of the kind in use here at Georgia Tech
and many other places," said Richard Boyd, a senior research scientist
at the university's research institute, in a statement. "Right now we
can confidently say that a seven-character password is hopelessly
Today's top graphics processors offer about two teraflops of parallel
processing power. For comparison, "in the year 2000, the world's fastest
supercomputer, a cluster of linked machines costing $110 million,
operated at slightly more than 7 teraflops," he said.
The barrier to using multi-core graphics processors -- available from
Nvidia or AMD's ATI division -- for compute-intensive processes other
than graphics processing, said Boyd, first fell in 2007, when Nvidia
released a C-based software development kit. "Once Nvidia did that,
interest in GPUs really started taking off," he said. "If you can write
a C program, you can program a GPU now." Or use it to crack a password.
Visit InfoSec News!