[RC5] I still dont understand?

David McNett nugget at slacker.com
Mon Dec 28 13:27:22 EST 1998


On 27-Dec-1998, Jonathan Beam wrote:
> So please kindly post a letter on the list and just explain simply 
> what the EFF is and what they do etc. 

EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a non-profit, non-partisan
organization working in the public interest to protect fundamental civil
liberties, including privacy and freedom of expression, in the arena of
computers and the Internet. EFF was founded in 1990, and is based in San
Francisco, California, with offices in Washington, DC, and New York City.

Their web site, at http://www.eff.org/ does a great job at explaining
who they are and what the do to keep busy.  One of the areas that
they've been most productive is dealing with issues regarding crypto
and privacy on the internet and they've been a very strong force in
ensuring that your rights online are protected from bad legislation
and lawmaking.  In short, EFF are the good guys.

In fact, we at distributed.net think so highly of EFF that we selected
them as one of the non-profit organizations elgible to receive the
prize money for the completion of RC5 or DES Challenges.
http://rc5stats.distributed.net/money.html for a complete list.

While we take one approach to the RSA Labs Challenges, and have built
a massive network of general purpose machines to tackle brute-force
decryption, the guys at EFF had a different idea.  led by John Gilmore, 
they took the opposite approach and decided to build a giant DES Cracking
machine that did nothing but brute-force decryption of DES-encoded
information.  Basically, they built a machine for the sole purpose of
tackling the RSA Labs DES Challenges.  They spent about a quarter 
of a million bucks on the thing, and the end result is quite impressive.
You can read more about it at http://www.eff.org/descracker.html if
you wish.  There's even a book, if you want ALL the gory details.

When the most-recent DES-II-2 Challenge began in July, they turned this
box loose and managed to beat distributed.net to the correct key.  The
EFF box turned up the solution in less than three days.  While this
was disappointing to us, it's important to remember that EFF's rapid
closure to DES-II-2 made a statement that distributed.net could never
make.  They descredited DES in a way that 50,000 people never could.
The proved that a moderately-funded group or even individual could 
do a pretty good job at cracking DES.  Long believed to be true, now
there's no room for discussion.  DES is insecure, no matter who you're
up against.

Stay tuned for the next chapter, though, as it only gets more interesting.
We've been in communications with John Gilmore at EFF and and are 
currently ironing out the details of an EFF/distributed.net cooperative
effor for the upcoming DES-III challenge.  With a timeframe of only 24 
hours, it only makes sense for us to band together.

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