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Teraflop Troubles: Powerful Gpus May Threaten the World's Password Security System

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GTRI researchers Joshua Davis, Richard Boyd, and Carl Mastrangelo

GTRI researchers Joshua Davis (standing) and Richard Boyd (right) investigated the GPU threat to password security, aided by undergraduate researcher Carl Mastrangelo (front).

Credit: Gary Meek / Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) computer scientists are studying whether desktop computers with graphics processing units (GPUs) are so powerful that they compromise password protection. "Right now we can confidently say that a seven-character password is hopelessly inadequate—and as GPU power continues to go up every year, the threat will increase," says GTRI's Richard Boyd.

Modern GPUs are so fast because they are designed as parallel computers. When given a problem, GPUs divide the task among multiple processing units and tackle different parts of the problem simultaneously. Software programs designed to break passwords are freely available on the Internet, and these programs, combined with the availability of GPUs, mean it is only a matter of time before the password threat will be immediate, the researchers say.

GTRI's Joshua L. Davis says the best password is an entire sentence that includes numbers or symbols, because it is both long and complex and yet easy to remember.

From Georgia Tech Research Institute
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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