Nvidia's been making a big deal about its GeForce 8-series graphics processors' general-purpose computing capabilities, saying the cards can be used to speed up a host of tasks like seismic simulations, molecular dynamics, and weather simulations, just to name a few. The company even released cards specifically aimed at general-purpose GPU applications earlier this year. However, GPGPU power can be used for more nefarious tasks than Nvidia advertises.
As the New Scientist reports, Russian software firm Elcomsoft has filed a U.S. patent for a password cracking technique that relies on the parallel processing capabilities of modern graphics processors. According to Elcomsoft CEO Vladimir Katalov, the technique increases the speed of password cracking by a factor of 25 using a GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics card from Nvidia. Elcomsoft also claims a more affordable $150 graphics processor can reduce the time needed to crack a Windows Vista password from months to "just three to five days." Cracking times can even be reduced from days or hours to minutes in some instances.
Elcomsoft used Nvidia's CUDA programming framework to develop its tool, and development time was only three months. The New Scientist says the firm "plans to introduce the feature into some of its password cracking products over time."