Nick Breese, a Kiwi researcher, believes the PS3 could be the next great (and affordable) hacking tool, according to a story over at The Sydney Morning Herald.
We all know the Synergistic Processing Units, or SPUs, in the Playstation 3's Cell processor are capable chunks of hardware. Although the Cell chip in the PS3 has only six of its eight SPUs accessible (one is locked to improve yields, and the other handles console security), that's still a respectable amount of grunt. 14 Tony units, to be exact.
While Nick is confident this power is more than enough to brute-force simple eight-character passwords, he says your bank account's 128-bit SSL will give it a lot of trouble.
From the article:
The gaming console is perfect for cracking passwords because the chips it uses are optimised to rapidly perform the calculations required to model 3-D environments. The computing techniques used to crack passwords are similar.
It's important to note that, before the invention of multi-core processors, graphics chips (GPUs) and CPUs were worlds apart. While a GPU is great at processing loads of similar tasks, CPUs do well with a few complex ones. Now, GPUs are still far better at this than any current multi-core CPU, but the gap will begin to close once Intel cracks out its 80-core behemoth (sometime in the year 2162 is my guess).
To put it simply, Cell's hefty parallelism (like a GPU), combined with its ability to work on complex data (like a CPU), is what makes it so appealing to hackers.
The article also mentions that the PS3 is a steal if all you want is the Cell chip. The next best thing is Mercury's Cell Accelerator Board, and last I heard, that bad boy retails for $US 8000 (or $US 7999 at selected retailers).
PlayStation a hacker's dream [smh.com.au]