[RC5] Website Content Suggestions

Nathan Klassen klassenn at uregina.ca
Fri Aug 5 23:08:52 EDT 2005

>My last thoughts, where have all the people gone? 
>Were a lot of people that participated in RC5-64 put
>off because of the size and time duration required for
>Have a lot of people went to other distributive
>computing projects?
>How can we attract and maintain more of the people who
>come to Distributed.net?  There have been over 65,000
>people who have submitted work, but only @ 15% are
>active on a daily basis.
>Again I wasn't around for the 64 crack so this may be
>a completely normal performance %.  But as a new
>member I wish it were more.
>Thanks for listening and let me know if there is more
>that I can do to help.
Well it has been a rather long time since I've posted to this list, 1997 
or so? (lol) but I thought I'd share some thoughts on this.

I personally joined during the time of the DES and RC5-56 challenges.  
It was an interest in distributed computing that guided me here but it 
was an interest in the protest against emerging cryptrographic policy 
within the United States that kept me there. Being a Canadian, I was not 
subject to export controls on American encryption but I could see the 
problems inherent with that policy.  D.Net (and the EFF with DeepCrack) 
proved to the world that DES was not secure and that export controls on 
American developed encryption didn't make sense.  As well, certainly if 
D.Net and the EFF could crack DES - was there any reason to believe that 
the NSA with its infinitely larger resources was unable to do so? We 
were able to prove to a generation of DES users that they might want to 
think twice about using that algorithm if they wanted to ensure their 
information would remain secure.  During these initiatives I was able to 
sign up many of my friend's computers, inform a lot of people about 
emerging issues regarding encryption and privacy, and even get our small 
University's campus to devote a lab to the effort.  I've been less 
involved in 'general' political issues than I was in this.

 Along the way other policy initiatives such as Clipper/Skipjack (and 
don't forget PGP's rough road) also piqued my interest. Often Canadian 
policy follows the America's lead, not always but often enough for 
concern. Not being a resident of the United States but being concerned 
with policy directions within that nation, I felt that this was a small 
thing that I could help with, a protest and a statement, even if it was 
one only understood by a few people. Eventually we have even seen the 
adoption of AES, an internationally developed cryptographic algorithm, 
as the new U.S. government standard, export controls dropped, and 'so 
far' encryption policy seems to be on the backburner due to the 
significant policy failures of the past (atleast to my knowledge).

In many ways, even though there are other encryption algorithms to crack 
and other related contests to participate in, D.net has already 
contributed far more to the global encryption policy debate than it 
could have ever hoped for. The project itself has become divided, 
focusing upon OGR and RC5-72, splitting our resources. Its true that in 
the past some contests ran simultaneously, and some individuals opted 
not to participate in the mad scamble that was DESIII. However, more or 
less, our point has been made.  Personally, RC5-72 even if we complete 
it tomorrow will not alter cryptographic policy nor address privacy 
concerns, nor even really demonstrate that its insecure. A product that 
can withstand the concerted attack of tens of thousands of computers for 
just over 2.5 years, is 'reasonably' secure.  ITAR restrictions have 
been significantly relaxed, I even think I read at one point that ITAR 
restrictions on encryption had been lifted but its been a long time 
since I looked.

My point is that the original purpose of the RC5-XX projects has 
essentially already been fulfilled. Many people have moved onto 'sexier' 
projects (cure for cancer, SETI, FOLDING at HOME, etc). If encryption 
policy rears its ugly head again, which is possible, people may flood 
back.  Until then - we will continue to have issues retaining users.  
The unique intersection of policy - computing power available - and the 
weakness of the Algorithm in question (earlier RC5 and DES) is an 
intersection that we probably won't see for some time to come. Perhaps 
when quantum computing becomes more mainstream, D.net will lead the 
charge ;)  Until policy initiatives shift again towards that unique 
intersection, my computing power will remain unused - but ready.

Nathan Klassen

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