Press Information Kit
David McNett, President
Press Contact: David McNett
Additional information: http://www.distributed.net/
distributed.net is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to serving as a gathering point for topics relating to distributed computing, or the process by which large numbers of computers are joined together toward solving a challenging problem. The history of the organization, the organization's ongoing projects, the individuals involved in the organization and the organization's short term and long term goals all relate to finding new ways for computers connected to the Internet being used during "idle" time. This process is realized through the development of software which allows computers currently not in use to communicate via the Internet allowing an unlimited amount of computers to work toward one common goal. To date, distributed.net has used its processes and technologies to solve encryption contests on the Internet. It is through the application of this concept that distributed.net has been able to develop and refine these techniques, improving on the range, scope, and variety of tasks which are suitable for this technology.
In response to the RC5-32/12/7 (56 bit) Secret Key Challenge, a contest testing RSA Lab's 56 bit encryption algorithm technology, a group of individuals began development of software tools designed to work towards solving the challenge. A program was created (the client) which was then installed on many machines and performed the complex calculations necessary to solve the challenge. Additionally, a network of servers was designed and created which could coordinate all the client computers. The large task of testing 72 quadrillion keys was then split up and delegated to each client machine. As each client completed its parcel of assigned work, it would report back to the server the results and then be assigned another parcel of work. In this manner of organized cooperation, many small computers can equal and even surpass the computing power of the largest mainframes. On May 8th, 1997 this effort become distributed.net with Adam L. Beberg acting as founder and chief organizer of this non-profit organization. On July 8th 1997, a new version of the "client" software became available. This version (v2) allowed for easier reporting, faster processing, and much more flexible operation.
On October 22, 1997 after 212 days of work the RC5-56 challenge was solved. At the end of the contest, 4000 active teams of volunteers (in total processing over 7 billion keys each second) at a combined computing power equivalent to more than 26 thousand high-end personal computers, managed to evaluate 46% of the possible solutions. A computer managed by Jo Hermans of Brussels found the solution. Of the $10,000 prize money $8,000 was donated to Project Gutenberg/CMU, $1,000 was awarded Jo Hermans and his teammates, and $1,000 was retained by distributed.net to cover their costs.
After some restructuring and development time, a second project began running on January 13th 1998. The second encryption contest, DES II-1, took only 40 days for completion. DES II-1 was cracked on Feb 23, 1998. The successful completion of this challenge brought a prize of $5,000, of which $3,000 was given to the Free Software Foundation, another non-profit venture.
On January 18, 1999, at 9am, DES III commenced. distributed.net, with the aid of EFF's Deep Crack in addition to the distributed.net clients, took part and completed this challenge on January 19, 1999 at 7am, less than 24 hours after the challenge commenced.
On November 17, 1999, at midnight, distributed.net started participating in the CSC challenge. CSC is an encryption challenge that is organized by CS Communications and Systems to demonstrate how weak a 56-bit key is against brute force attacks. distributed.net was also successful at this challenge. On January 16, 2000, at 6:30am, the winning key was received.
On July 14, 2002 after 1,757 days and 58,747,597,657 work units tested the RC5-64 challenge was solved when a P3-450 running Windows 2000 in Tokyo returned the winning key to the distributed.net keyservers. The task was completed by 331,252 participants. Our peak rate of 270,147,024 kkeys/sec is equivalent to 32,504 800MHz Apple PowerBook G4 laptops or 45,998 2GHz AMD Athlon XP machines or (to use some rc5-56 numbers) nearly a half million Pentium Pro 200s.
As of 3 December 2002, distributed.net has been working on the RSA Labs' 72-bit secret-key challenge, project RC5-72. The keyspace for this project is 256 times the size of the RC5-64 keyspace making this the largest undertaking in distributed.net's history. More detailed information about this is available here.
Distributed.net is also currently working on OGR-24 and OGR-25 (Optimal 24-mark and 25-mark Golomb Rulers). More detailed information about this is available from here.
Individuals of distributed.net
David McNett acts as President of distributed.net. He was responsible designing and implementing for the original versions of the distributed.net member statistics database and website. He manages the organization's legal and financial matters, as well as handling public relations tasks.
Jeff Lawson attended Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California and graduated with an undergraduate degree in computer science in 1999. He has worked as a software developer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the WolfeTech Corporation, and as software design engineer specializing in operating system security for a small software company in the Redmond, Washington area. He is currently employed at United Devices in Austin, Texas developing enterprise-ready grid computing management solutions. Mr. Lawson was pivotal in the development of initial software used to crack the original RC5 project. He is currently working toward developing a better version of the existing software, which will help realize the potential of distributed computing in an academic sense.
The "short term" goals of distributed.net revolve around the status of ongoing projects. distributed.net is primarily concerned with completion of contests and the eventual completion of a third version of the client software used by idle computers.
Any "long term" goals are strictly academic in nature. distributed.net is committed to researching the possibilities of distributed computing and its applications. All efforts are non-commercial. Breakthroughs and advances will be made public whenever possible.
For more information on any of the topics discussed here feel free to visit the distributed.net web site.
Volunteer participation in distributed.net is estimated at over 60,000 individuals from nearly every nation and region in the world. With combined resources of as many as 500,000 computers. distributed.net represents the first large-scale collaborative computing effort ever undertaken.