"'This DES cracking algorithm demonstrates a practical, scalable approach to accelerated cryptography,' says David Hulton, an expert in code cracking and cryptography. 'Previous methods of acceleration using clustered CPUs show increasingly poor results due to non-linear power consumption and escalating system costs as more CPUs are added. Using FPGAs allows us to devote exactly the amount of silicon resources needed to meet performance and cost goals, without incurring significant parallel processing overhead.' Although 56-bit DES is now considered obsolete, having been replaced by newer and more secure Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption methods, DES continues to serve an important role in cryptographic research, and in the development and auditing of current and future block-based encryption algorithms."
writes "Dr. Dobbs reports that a cracking algorithm using brute force methods can analyze the entire DES 56-bit keyspace with a throughput of over 280 billion keys per second, the highest-known benchmark speeds for 56-bit DES decryption and can accomplish a key recovery that would take years to perform on a PC, even with GPU acceleration, in less than three days using a single, hardware-accelerated server with a cluster of 176 FPGAs. The massively parallel algorithm iteratively decrypts fixed-size blocks of data to find keys that decrypt into ASCII numbers. Candidate keys that are found in this way can then be more thoroughly tested to determine which candidate key is correct." Update by timothy, 2010-01-29 19:05 GMT:
Reader Stefan Baumgart writes to point out prior brute-force methods
using reprogrammable chips, including Copacobana
(PDF), have achieved even shorter cracking times for DES-56. See also this 2005 book review of Brute Force
, about the EFF's distributed DES-breaking effort that succeeded in 1997 in cracking a DES-encrypted message.