The other day while migrating data from my old Linux workstation to my new one, I came across a file that had my login credentials for both my personal account and the CAU team account over at Distributed.net. If you’re not familiar with Distributed.net, it’s a massively multi-player (heh) encryption-cracking effort. By sheer force of numbers, they have in the past cracked crypto challenges for the RSA’s DES II-1 and DES-III challenges (they lost DES II-2 to the EFF), RSA Labs’ RC5-56 and RC5-64 challenges, the CS Communications & Systems cipher challenge, and others. The way it works is, you, the average computer user, download the Distributed.net client application (dnetc) and run it on your computer. You can configure it to only run while your screen-saver is on, or you can configure it to run in the background at all times. Either way, when your computer is idle, it will use those idle processing cycles to work on a chunk of crypto data that it has downloaded from the available work-pool at Distributed.net. Essentially, it contributes to the community workload when you aren’t using your computer.
What I found interesting is that after going back to the website and looking up my stats, I apparently still had an active dnetc client installed out there somewhere, on a computer connected to the Internet. Thinking back, I think I’ve narrowed it down to an NTP server I installed for a financial company I worked for around 4 years ago… it’s the only server I can think of that I would have had dnetc installed on that would probably have been left alone to it’s own devices this entire time. But of course that’s just a guess, because since the dnetc client only uses idle processing cycles, it’s relatively safe to have it installed on pretty much anything with a processor with negligible impact, so I had these crypto-cracking clients installed everywhere… Anyhow, that one lone dnetc client, wherever it is, has been chugging away all this time, submitting a small trickle of completed work on my behalf.
So I’ve decided to attempt to revive my Distributed.net team and suppliment that hard working, loyal server that is out there, somewhere… I’ve since installed dnetc again on pretty much every computer that I have access to, and this is my call-to-arms. If you have a computer that is usually powered on that you wouldn’t mind putting to work when you’re not using it yourself, consider hopping over to Distributed.net, downloading, and installing the client. When you install it, you can either configure it to report as your own email address, or, if you don’t care about your stats (or the prize money!) you could always configure it to report as my email address, “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Really, I won’t mind… Remember though that if you do configure it to report as your own email address, once it begins reporting and your email address shows up on the statistics page (updated once daily), you will then have to join your email address to our team if you do in fact want to contribute to our team.