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Researcher cracks WPA-PSK encryption in just 20 minutes with Amazon EC2 cloud

Posted by on 13/01/2011

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If you thought the WPA-PSK form of WiFi encryption was secure, think again. Thomas Roth, a researcher, has used the power of Amazon’s EC2 cloud servers to run a custom coded software to break WiFi passwords in just 20 minutes.

He mentioned that people have told him trying to crack the WPA encryption would be almost impossible or would cost a ton of money. He has proved them wrong, and has calculated the cost to be $1.68 total (20 minutes x $0.28 per minute of server use).

So what’s the trick behind all this? Nothing special really. He is simply using brute force techniques known to us from the olden days. However, with Amazon’s powerful cloud he is able to try about 400,000 possible passwords per second, a feat which was impossible a few years ago (unless you had a lot of money to buy a powerful server). He even said that if the software had been fine tuned a bit more, the encryption could have been cracked within 6 minutes.

Last year November he cracked 14 hashes from a 160-bit SHA-1 hash in 49 minutes by using simple passwords ranging from 1-6 characters. By increasing the number of Cluster GPU Instances, he is better able to run more trials per second. The old saying of ‘back to basics’ applies well here.

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