tssci security

Hacking pricey FPGAs

h1kari, not long ago at ShmooCon 2007, presented (*.mp4) his custom Field-programmable gate array optimized for cracking WEP and WPA encryption. It performed in some cases over 400% faster than a Pentium 4 or Athlon64. The reason why the chip performs so remarkably well is because it has been optimized for such calculations and is a dedicated to cracking crypto. Dedicated hardware will (in most cases) always perform faster than a computer CPU, which has to share its resources among many processes concurrently.

Many people at the conference were very enticed about purchasing such hardware, which came in a PCMCIA card and could be plugged directly into a laptop. The crowd let out a sigh of disappointment when h1kari mentioned the cost... The price? $2000. Why? FPGAs are basically prototyping equipment. They can be reprogrammed numerous (infinite) times. It is however, much more expensive than a single, bulk manufactured integrated circuit. Ryan Clarke suggested and asked h1kari if he had considered moving to an integrated circuit. The thought probably never crossed his mind. With an integrated circuit, you don't have as much flexibility (if at all) to re-programming [read: updating] its functions, but is generally faster and also consumes less power. If h1kari can secure an initial investment (most expensive phase) for at least one thousand chips (which he surely could), he can possibly reduce the cost to ~$200 each, or even less. I'm sure many people (including myself) would be willing to pay that amount.

Posted by Marcin on Tuesday, April 17, 2007 in Security and Tech.

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