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Researchers who developed standard claimed it would take "thousands of years to crack", but it took only 148 days

We're living in either a dark, dysmal time for cryptographers or a golden, glorious age for hackers depending on how you look at it.  Casual hackers are making short work of supposedly modestly-secure older hashing standards like MD5, and even supposedly-super-secure "strong" encryption techniques are falling to novel attacks.

I. Pair-Based Cryptography Continues to Fall in Security 

The latest victim in the march of progress is pairing-based cryptography, an approach that was thought to hold the key to super-secure future communications.  Japanese electronics giant Fujitsu Ltd. (TYO:6702), Kyushu University, and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) cracked a 278-digit (923-bit) cryptogram, easily besting the previous world record of 204 digits (676 bits).

Researchers who worked with pair-based cryptography have in the past expressed confidence that 900+ bit cryptograms would take hundreds of thousands of years to crack.  But Fujitsu, et al. achieved the feat in a mere 148.2 days -- less than half a year -- running on a 21-computer cluster with 252 cores.

Fujitsu cracking
Fujitsu has cracked an encryption that was previously estimated to take "hundreds of thousands of years" to break. [Image Source: Fujitsu]

By employing parallel programming methods and other novel techniques to the attack, the research team was able to cut the time that would have been required by a less state-of-the-art brute force attack with previous methods.

II. Cat and Mouse -- No System is Unbreakable

Fujitsu warns that the shocking success should serve as a warning to security firms that what seems like reliable standards may be crackable sooner than they think, and unsafe not too long after that.  Writes the company:

As cryptanalytic techniques and computers become more advanced, cryptanalytic speed accelerates, and conversely, cryptographic security decreases.  Therefore, it is important to evaluate how long the cryptographic technology can be securely used.

We were able to overcome this problem by making good use of various new technologies, that is, a technique optimising parameter setting that uses computer algebra, a two dimensional search algorithm extended from the linear search, and by using our efficient programing techniques to calculate a solution of an equation from a huge number of data, as well as the parallel programming technology that maximises computer power.

Cryptography today is facing a two-side assault.  On the one side are the crackers, looking to employ novel methodology to reverse advance encryption.  On the other side are the exploiters, looking to identify and leverage fundamental flaws in the implementation, flaws which sabotage the reliability of the underlying methods.

Hacker proof
Unbreakable security is a fantasy. [Office Hackery]

Some public keys encrypted by the RSA standard were recently found to have "no security at all".  The culprit, said Swiss researchers who published their findings in February, was improper generation.  Likewise in 2010 Norwegian researchers published [abstract] results indicating quantum cryptography could be cracked via attacking the photon detectors that implemented the encryption via quantum mechanical effect.  Here, the quantum cryptography itself was likely strong enought to stand up to any direct assault, but the glaring weak spot was the encoders/decoders in the system, which could be hijacked with traditional attacks.

Of course security researchers will surely scramble on to new and safer protection schemes.  But it's more clear than ever that uncrackable encryption is anything but.

Source: Fujitsu

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By Gondor on 6/19/2012 6:37:46 PM , Rating: 1
Researchers who worked with pair-based cryptography have in the past expressed confidence that 900+ bit cryptograms would take hundreds of thousands of years to crack. But Fujitsu, et al. achieved the feat in a mere 148.2 days -- less than half a year -- running on a 21-computer cluster with 252 cores.

So if key was lengthened by one bit (to 901 bits) they would have taken them 1 year to brute force it. If it was lengthened to 1024 bits it would have taken them about 1E37 years to break it.

Our universe is estimated to be ~15 * E9 years old; in other words it would have taken them about 700000000000000000000000000000000000 times the lifespan of our universe to crack it using existing etchnology ... assuming technology doesn't improve in any way in the next ~1063382400000000000000000000000000000 years.

1024 bit crypto is not only perfectly doable with today's technology, it should be the mandatory minimum.

Sooooooo ... while I appreciate technology advances (which enable Microsoft to come up with software twice as bloated as the previous incarnation that still runs about as slow on hardware twice as fast !) I don't think there's really a need to be worried. Yes, I'm sure crappy software exists that can be broken in a matter of seconds/minutes./hours/days/years but that doesn't mean you should be using it - insist on safer option !

RE: Fascinating
By DigitalFreak on 6/19/2012 7:51:49 PM , Rating: 2
So... It took them only 3 years to go from cracking 676 bit encryption to cracking 923. At this rate, they should be able to break 1024 in a similar amount of time within a year or two.

RE: Fascinating
By Qapa on 6/19/2012 9:26:02 PM , Rating: 2
Well, not really...

Imagine that in 1 years 1024 bits can be cracked in 6 months with that computer...

Two problems:
1 - Any document you "legally" sign, after those 6 months of having the keys being used are actually worthless - anything can be signed with your both public keys now!
2 - That computer seemed like a week one, for anyone wanting to go in strength to get potentially zillions of dollars (as being able to sign documents for other people is worth that), so put a really good supercomputer and it would maybe be done in 1 week or even 1 day... and now 1024 bits is unusable.

In security, you must adequate what is being secured to the security employed, so...

1024b can only be used for stuff that u don't mind as having as public, like having a normal wooden door at your house.

2048b can be used safely for a few years (to be confirmed every year with new methods like this one), like installing a great safe at home or even at a bank (the probability of being taken is low)

4096b can be used safely for several/lots of years (to be confirmed every few years), like having something at the safe where money gets printed (security measures are really huge)

So don't trust public key crypto with 1024b for anything you really can't have it made public!

Same thing for symmetric-key algorithms (AES, ...) 128b maybe considered fine, but if you really want it safe, use 256b... that way when 128b gets cracked you'll hear about it and have time to move to 512b :)

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