Distributed Team Collaborates to Solve Secret-Key Challenge
Contest designed to keep the cryptographic community updated on new achievements and help organizations maintain highest levels of security
Bedford, MA, Thursday, September 26, 2002 — RSA Laboratories, the research center of RSA Security Inc. (Nasdaq: RSAS), the most trusted name in e-security®, today announced that a coordinated team of computer programmers and enthusiasts, known as distributed.net, has solved the RC5-64 Secret-Key Challenge. The distributed.net team solved the challenge in approximately four years, using 331,252 volunteers and their machines. Distributed.net receives a cash prize of $10,000 for solving the challenge.
Established in 1997, RSA Laboratories’ Secret-Key Challenge is offered to quantify the strength of symmetric encryption algorithms such as DES and the RC5® algorithm with various key sizes. By sponsoring an actual contest, RSA Laboratories helps the industry confirm theoretical estimates, and through this constant evaluation, vendors are motivated to continue to improve their security solutions. The distributed.net consortium utilized the idle time of computers throughout the world to search through the list of all possible 64-bit keys for RSA Security’s RC5 algorithm to find the one secret key selected at random by RSA Laboratories that decrypts a given message correctly.
RSA Laboratories sponsors a series of cryptographic challenges that allow individuals or groups to attempt to solve various encryption “puzzles” for cash prizes. The RC5-64 Challenge is one of a series of contests held to determine the difficulty of finding a symmetric encryption key by exhaustive search (trial-and-error). Previous contests include the DES Challenge, the RC5-40 Challenge and the RC5-56 Challenge.
“We’re very appreciative of all the volunteers who offered their time and computer’s idle processing time to help solve this challenge,” said David McNett, distributed.net co-founder and president. “We have once again shown how collective computing power can be applied to security technology with ordinary PC’s. We look forward to future RSA Laboratories-sponsored challenges that will assist in helping the cryptographic community gauge the strength of an algorithm or application against exhaustive key search.”
“RSA Security congratulates the distributed.net team in solving the RC5-64 Secret-Key Challenge,” said Burt Kaliski, chief scientist at RSA Laboratories. “We appreciate the persistence of distributed.net and the many individuals involved in completing the search for this one key. Their work helps the industry confirm how much work is involved to search exhaustively for a key — and how a huge volume of computing time can be harnessed. The various challenges we sponsor are very useful for tracking the state of cryptographic achievements and helping ensure that organizations are maintaining the highest levels of security to protect their most critical data assets.”
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