DESCHALL Press Release

Ky Moffet (
Thu, 19 Jun 97 10:08:00 -0800

* Original msg to:

* Originally By: Rex Sheasby
* Originally To: All
* Originally Re: DES has been CRACKED! 1/2
* Original Area: U_Virus
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Now the fun begins....

Date: Wed, 18 Jun 1997 14:09:11 -0600
From: Rocke Verser <>
Message-Id: <>
Precedence: bulk
X-Status: O


LOVELAND, COLORADO (June 18, 1997). Tens of thousands of
computers, all across the U.S. and Canada, linked together via the
Internet in an unprecedented cooperative supercomputing effort to
decrypt a message encoded with the government-endorsed Data Encryption
Standard (DES).

Responding to a challenge, including a prize of $10,000, offered by
RSA Data Security, Inc, the DESCHALL effort successfully decoded
RSADSI's secret message.

According to Rocke Verser, a contract programmer and consultant who
developed the specialized software in his spare time, "Tens of thousands
of computers worked cooperatively on the challenge in what is believed
to be one of the largest supercomputing efforts ever undertaken outside
of government."

Using a technique called "brute-force", computers participating in
the challenge simply began trying every possible decryption key. There
are over 72 quadrillion keys (72,057,594,037,927,936). At the time the
winning key was reported to RSADSI, the DESCHALL effort had searched
almost 25% of the total. At its peak over the recent weekend, the
DESCHALL effort was testing 7 billion keys per second.

Verser considers this project to be remarkable in two ways:

One. This is the first time anyone has publicly shown that they
can read a message encrypted with DES. And this was done with "spare"
CPU time, mostly from ordinary PCs, by thousands of users who have never
even met each other. U.S. government and industry will have to take a
hard look at their cryptographic policies. "DES can no longer be
considered secure against a determined adversary", Verser said.

Two. This project demonstrates the kind of supercomputing power
that can be harnessed on the Internet using nothing but "spare" CPU
time. "Imagine what might be possible using millions of computers
connected to the Internet!" Aside from cryptography and other obvious
mathematical uses, supercomputers are used in many fields of science.
"Perhaps a cure for cancer is lurking on the Internet?", said Verser,
"Or perhaps the Internet will become Everyman's supercomputer."

Under current U.S. government export regulations, and underscoring
a problem faced by the U.S. software industry, the program that searched
the keys could not be exported, except to Canada. A competitive effort,
based in Sweden, sprang up well after the DESCHALL effort began. Able
to "market" their keysearch software around the world, the Swedish
effort caught up quickly, and had searched nearly 10 quadrillion keys by
the end of the contest.


Verser agrees with the sentiment voiced in RSADSI's secret message:
"Strong cryptography makes the world a safer place."

Use of strong cryptography, both domestically and internationally,
is essential in today's electronic world. "But not at the expense of a
citizen's right to privacy." Verser adds, "Recent proposals for
'key-recovery' and for criminalization of the use of cryptography have no
place in a free society."

Information about the DESCHALL effort is available from the
official DESCHALL Web site at: <>

Matt Curtin, (908) 431-5300 x 295, <>

Rocke Verser, (970) 663-5629, <>

Justin Dolske, (614) 459-5194, <>

Background / Sidebar, for Release dated June 18, 1997

The Data Encryption Standard, DES, is a national standard, adopted
in 1977. Use of DES is mandatory in most Federal agencies, except the
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