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23 October 2007, 15:15

GeForce 8 cracks passwords

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It is well recognised that graphics processors (GPUs) have a far greater theoretical performance than current CPUs. Now, Elcomsoft has proved in version 2.0 of its Distributed Password Recovery (DPR) how GeForce-8 cards can be used to crack Windows NTLM passwords up to 25 times faster than previously thought possible. Brute forcing -- or should we talk about GeForcing? -- an eight-character Windows password now only takes three to five days, instead of two months. Furthermore, multiple computers can be combined in a cluster to increase the throughput even further. Elcomsoft plans to patent the software it has developed for this purpose.

The Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) framework allows high-performance tasks to be outsourced to the graphics card. In particular, tasks that can be highly parallelized are especially suitable for modern graphics cards like Nvidia's, with its 128 stream processors. GPUs do not handle floating-point calculations as accurately as CPUs, which is why they are not as suitable for such applications as climate modelling, but they are adept at the high precision fixed-point arithmetic that is used in encryption.

Nvidia's SDK is currently available for 32 and 64-bit Linux distributions and as a 32-bit version for Windows. In addition to a C compiler and mathematical standard libraries, the package also includes sample programs. ATI offers a similar toolkit for its R580 GPU: the Close-to-Metal (CTM) Framework (PDF).

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