DESCHALL Press Release (fwd)

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 17:59:59 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Wed, 18 Jun 1997 14:09:11 -0600
From: Rocke Verser <>


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, <>

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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
military. DES is very widely used in the private sector, as well.

Interbank wire transfers, Visa transactions, your medical and
financial records, and your employer's financial data are some of the
many things secured against prying eyes or against modification by DES.

When the Data Encryption Standard was adopted in 1977, there was
some question as to whether or not the Standard was adequate to protect
confidential data.

Matt Curtin, Chief Scientist for Megasoft, Inc. says, "This is
proving by example, not by mathematical calculation, that DES can be
broken with little or no cost." Curtin added, "Others could just as
easily be attempting to gain access to multibillion dollar wire

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

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

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

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Background for Release dated June 18, 1997


DESCHALL Web site:

Principal Organizer:
Rocke Verser, self-employed contract programmer, Loveland, Colorado

Team Leaders - Did "everything" Rocke didn't have time to do
Matt Curtin, Chief Scientist, Megasoft Online
Justin Dolske, Graduate Fellow / Research Associate, Ohio State Universtiy

Team Contributors:
Guy Albertelli, several "ports"
Kelly Campbell, original Mac port
Darrell Kindred, blazing fast bitslice clients
Andrew Meggs, blazing fast Mac client
Karl Runge, statistics and rankings

Team Members:
Dozens of people who contributed "shareware".
Thousands of ordinary folks, who contributed "spare" CPU cycles.

Project statistics:
Start of contest: January 29, 1997
Announcement of DESCHALL project: February 18, 1997
End of contest: June 17, 1997

Size of keyspace: 72,057,594,037,927,936
Keys searched: 17,731,502,968,143,872
Peak keys/day: 601,296,394,518,528
Peak keys/second: 7,000,000,000 (approx)

Peak clients/day: 14,000 (approx, based on IP address)
Total clients, since start: 78,000 (approx, based on IP address)

The computer that found the key:
CPU: Pentium 90
RAM: 16 megabytes
Operating System: FreeBSD 2.2.1
Speed (keys/second): 250,000 (approx)
Client: FreeBSD v0.214, built March 12, 1997
Owner: iNetZ Corporation, Salt Lake City, Utah
Operator: Michael K. Sanders

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

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

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

Jeff Simmons

Hey, man, got any spare CPU cycles? Help crack DES.