Re: Some thing to think about

Dan Calle (dcalle@lucifer.bevc.blacksburg.va.us)
Fri, 18 Apr 1997 09:02:51 -0400 (EDT)


On Fri, 18 Apr 1997, Matt Holtz wrote:

> I know that the web page says that we are looking for a needle in
> a 2.5 mile wide 1 mile high stack of hay.

Really about 2.8 miles wide and 1.4 high, but who's quibbling? :-)

> This seems a little crazy to me until I thought about it a few different
> ways.

You think that's crazy, look at it this way: ever been in a plane around
7000 feet? Remember how tiny a barn looked from there? Now imagine that
instead of a plane, you're you're *standing* at the top of huge haystack.
Just to aid the visualization a little.

> Has anyone ever thought about a hardware implementation of this sort
> of thing? A chip that is specifically designed to do nothing but
> crack DES? I am sure that someone has.

Yes, that's why lots of folks think the NSA can do it in a matter of hours
or even minutes.

The first computer to break a teraflops in 1995 was special purpose hardware
(designed to work on the gravitational N-body problem) with 1,692 processors
that cost less than $2 million and fits in an office
(http://butterfly.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp:8080/pub/people/makino/grape4.html). Such
a machine designed specifically for this task could do the job in four or
five months all by itself.

The government has a number of general purpose computers costing more than
10 times that much, so it's reasonable to assume an agency like the NSA
would have shelled out some bucks for some specialized code-crackers. Also,
the group that came up with the machine I mentioned above aims to have a
petaflops-class machine by the year 2000 costing about $10 million
(http://www.astro.umd.edu/~nemo/peta/). Imagine what a fully funded
government agency like the NSA already has. They'd be stupid not to.

--
Dan Calle                        Senior, Computer Science, Virginia Tech
Email: dan@vt.edu                    Assistant Administrator: acm.vt.edu
http://acm.vt.edu/~dcalle/          dcalle@lucifer.bevc.blacksburg.va.us