(Originally located at CUCUG, archived here for accessability)

Confessions Of an RC5 Co-Conspirator

           Confessions Of an RC5 Co-Conspirator: A Virtual Diary
                            By: Jason Compton

-  Someone on IRC asked me today if I wanted to help out in cracking RC5.
I have no idea what he meant.  He tried to explain it to me.  It sort of
sounds like people are working on cracking encryption methods--probably
because they don't like the American government's attitude towards
encryption system importation and exportation.  Whatever, sounds


-  This RC5 thing came up again.  More people are talking about it--I'm
gathering that it's nothing illegal, it's some sort of sponsored contest.
But working on cracking an encryption system sounds a little complex.
There are massive massive tomes on cryptography--my roommate even has one.
"Applied Cryptography."  It competes with some phone books I've seen.


-  Now these RC5 guys want me to talk about their project in the magazine.
Ok, so now I've visited a website or two (http://rc5.distributed.net)
(http://homepage.cistron.nl/~ttavoly/rc5/ and have found out that it
doesn't really require you know anything about anything.  See, the idea is
that there are all these encrypted keys out there: 2^56 of them, in fact.
You can run a client on your computer to try to find the secret key.  If
you do that, everybody on the team who was working with you gets pizza
money or something like that.  But I don't know.  I'm a little leery of
just running some net client because someone told me so...


-  Ok, these RC5 guys won't leave me alone.  I've been asked no less than
24 times to run the client and do an article about it in AR.  Nobody seems
to have had their system invaded as a result of the client, and the whole
thing does look pretty legit.  So, all right, all right already.  I'll
follow the procedure on the web site, benchmark my machine for their
statistics, and go ahead and start running...


-  Now that I've hacked a few code blocks...well, not really hacked them
personally, but now that I've let my machine's CPU time be hogged a bit by
this RC5 client, maybe I'll look into this a bit more.  I'm a little
disappointed that this is the "Amiga" RC5 effort but in the name of
advancing the cause (and getting the Amiga name moved higher and higher on
the list of top code hacking teams), non-Amiga machines are beig liberally
employed in the effort.  You can run these clients on PCs and high-end Unix
workstations, too...and let's just say that most of those machines are
pulling down more KKeys per second than my 060 card is.

   Ugh, now they've got me talking technical.  "KKeys per second" is the
rate at which your computer is testing the keys to try to find the secret
one.  "KKeys" is short for "kilokeys", in other words, how many thousands
of keys per second.  My machine does about 100 KKeys/s: 100,000 keys per
second.  Sounds like a lot, right?  First think about how much 2^56 is,
then 100,000 per second doesn't sound very good anymore...


-  Well, this is it.  I've got the RC5 client running in a shell in the
background.  It's about 10% through a new block of keys, and it really
isn't taking up CPU time--I can type here, carry on in IRC, browse the web,
etc.  I need to remember to break out of it with a control-C before I turn
off the computer though, just to make sure all the hard work is saved.

   So, if you spend a lot of time aimlessly online, or might want to start,
putting your Amiga to work on the RC5 project is a good way to feel a bit
productive.  And the guys who run the Amiga RC5 effort will be happy--happy
that I wrote this article, and happy that by the time you read it, the
Amiga team might have broken into the top 10 teams in the international
effort.  It's an impressive feat--a ragtag group of Amiga junkies and guys
with access to faster machines with a soft spot for Amigas have banded
together to form one of the largest volunteer armies of spare CPU cycles in
the world.  I imagine you could make a movie like Toy Story this way, too.
But it would probably be harder to motivate people.

Back to Press page | Main page