PS3: It Only Catches A Predator

Federal agents typically used $US11,000 computers to crack passwords to the seized hard drives of suspected child pornographers. Now they're using $US300 PlayStation 3s to pull off the same task.

"Bad guys are encrypting their stuff now, so we need a methodology of hacking on that to try to break passwords," Claude E. Davenport, an agent in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes centre, told Joseph D. Szydlowski of the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. "The Playstation 3 - its processing component - is perfect for large-scale library attacks."

Here's the deal. Under the Fourth Amendment, suspects in the U.S. are not required to give up passwords they use to secure their information. But the Fourth doesn't cover cops cracking their way into hardware they lawfully seize under a search warrant. That's where the power computing comes in.

In the past, they'd use a Tableau/Dell server combination running about $US1,100. Then they realised they could get the same computing power out of a PS3 for a quarter of the cost, roughly. So they throw networked consoles at the problem, to unravel the nearly 282 trillion possibilities in a six-digit password.

"You take the ability of a single person to throw a few passwords at it a minute to a few million a second," Neil Condon, vice president of Public Affairs for AccessData Corp., told SHFW. Condon's company does investigations.

Here's the funny part. While Condon said that any console with a high-end graphics card is capable of the same power, the PS3 is used because you can install Linux on it. Guess they're using the old PS3 Phats. Go Phat! Go!!

Federal Officers Use Video Game Console to Catch Child Pornographers [Scripps Howard Foundation Wire (subscription required) via Hot Blooded Gaming]


    Cool - they should roll this out as a competitor to [email protected], I'd happily leave my PS3 running if it was helping convict pedophiles while I sleep...

      That's not a bad idea mate, i would happily leave my consoles on 24 hours a day, if it was for a good cause. My PS3 already gets a workout from the [email protected] app.

      hell yes!
      imagine how much faster it would be to crack their shit if they had a million or so ps3's running at the same time doing the same thing!!

      What a good idea. Like you said it would be like knowing your constantly streaming money to the needy. Except in this case its about stopping pedo's getting they're d**k on for kids.

    Some quick maths...
    282 trillion passwords means they're looking at 256 possible characters for each "letter" of the password. Thats about 7 days at 500,000,000 checks a second (maybe 100 consoles at the above numbers).
    Suppose a user has a 10 digit password using alphanumeric and symbols (lets say 80 chars) for example... Thats about 1e+19 (1 with 19 zeros).
    Even at 500 million checks a second (so 100 machines maybe), thats 21 billion seconds... Up to 680 years if they're unlucky...

    A worthy cause... but here's hoping the people they're after really are just using 6 digit passwords (all alpha would be nice too).

    Or... do what the above person said... (aka [email protected])... a million ps3's could knock the task off in under a month.

    First you mention $11,000 computers then $1,100 computers. Which one is it?

    So it's basically the old networked console farm idea again, nothing new there.

    "any console with a high-end graphics card is capable of the same power, the PS3 is used because you can install Linux on it."

    That sounds odd, because when using Linux on the PS3 you actually cant directly access the RSX graphics chip, which makes it sound like they found a way to work around the hypervisor.

    Can they use the ps3 to kill pedophiles too?

    One can only dream D:

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now