Gaming Console used as hacking device

A New Zealand security consultant working with Security-assessment.com found out a way of using Sony Playstation 3 console as a brute force password cracker.

Nick Breese managed to increase "the current upper limit of 10-15 million cycles per second - in Intel-based (x86) architecture - up to 1.4 billion cycles per second."; that's a 100 fold increase in performance which is impressive.

The Playstation 3's strength resides in its microprocessor, the Cell Broadband Engine, a 3.2GHz monster containing 32 Arithmetic Processing Units, which was create by Sony in collaboration with Toshiba and IBM.

Rather than being an adept multi-tasker (being able to do and knowing how to do several things at the same time), the Cell Unit is a one trick pony, capable of doing non-complex calculations very quickly.

The Cell Broadband Engine is said to have a stunning 1 teraflop worth of raw processing power.

By contrast, the world's most powerful supercomputer can deliver around 250 Teraflops.

The ability to perform password cracking on a gaming console is a worrying factor given the fact that they are widely available, take less space and cheap compared to a traditional computer.

Furthermore clusters of Playstation 3, which are aggregated bunches of gaming consoles, have already been tested and it can be envisaged that in a near future, hackers will be able to use hundreds of Playstation 3 to crack passwords in minutes rather than days.

The technique was showed on Saturday the 17th at Kiwicon, a gathering of the hacker and computer security community of New Zealand.

Last month, Russian-based software developer Elcomsoft has filed for a patent to develop a password recovery method (in other words, a password cracker) based on a video graphics card unit.

Already, companies like AMD are developing technologies which aim at harnessing the power of graphic video cards.

The Firestream 9170 GPGPU - General Purpose Graphic Processing Unit - for example can deliver up to 500 GFLOPS of computing power for USD 1999.