back to article Plasma TV components applied to password cracking

Forget networked PCs or even PlayStation 3s, components commonly found in plasma TVs are the latest thing in password cracking tools. High performance FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chips are the Chuck Norris of number crunching, equally suited to image processing and (with a bit of modification) password cracking. …


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  1. Graham Bartlett

    A new way of solving encryption...

    ...roundhouse kick to the head!

  2. Rob Crawford


    Chuck can roundhouse kick encrypted data so hard the key falls out

  3. Bill Cumming
    Paris Hilton


    All we need now is the MPAA to use your TV's to hack your comp remotely to see what you downloaded!

    Paris 'cause things are easy to (crack) open ;)

  4. Matt


    Chuck Norris doesn't need to decrypt data.

    The data takes one look and Chuck and rearranges itself in the correct order to save it self from the inevitable.

  5. Kanhef

    Not trivial to exploit

    Given the size of a single board, a network is not going to be very portable. You'd have to record the encrypted data and transmit it to the system for processing. As usual, the more money and hardware you throw at complex calculations, the faster it goes.

  6. Wayland Sothcott

    Hardware = Software

    I have heard it said that if software is popular enough then someone will make hardware. These field programmable gate arrays translate software directly into hardware. Amazing! Truely. It ought to be possible to include them in PC's to run small bits of code super fast.

  7. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    > Kanhef

    How big are networks?

  8. Kurt Guntheroth


    10 years ago you had cell-phone pirates driving vans full of $100k RF scanners arond city neighborhoods to get cell phone codes to clone. Size and cost is not an obstacle for these guys. Only the cost/benefit matters.

    The more value we put in encrypted data streams, the more value in cracking them. It's not like a custom 8-layer board is all that expensive, or requires you to have your own manufacturing plant. Even big FPGAs are less than $100. And your laptop makes a dandy controller.

    Welcome to the year when professional engineers go bad for profit.

  9. Acme Fixer

    @ Wayland Sothcott

    <<These field programmable gate arrays translate software directly into hardware. Amazing! Truely. It ought to be possible to include them in PC's to run small bits of code super fast.>>

    They already do. It's called a video image processor. And parts of the Pentium, I believe.

    BTW, it's "truly."

  10. schlonz
    Dead Vulture

    Plasma TVs are just one application

    I don't see any significant link between Plasma TVs and FPGAs. FPGAs are used in so many things, Plasma TVs being just one of them.

    Seriously, buying a Plasma TV for a few housand quid just to rip out the FPGA would be a waste of money when you can get for 100 or 200 Pounds tops, evaluation board and software included.

    Making this connection is a really odd - maybe except for the fact that it makes for a good headline. But really, el reg peolpe, you can do better than that!

  11. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Chuck Norris?

    Stuff that. Has anyone manged to crack the John Prescott encryption yet?

  12. Trygve


    Did you actually read the article?

    "For SecureTest's purposes, FPGA boards from old LG plasma TVs did the job."

    So they presumably scavenged boards from old displays that were headed to the landfill. Why pay for new when some old junk will get the job done well enough? Are you a government contractor or something?

  13. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Dead Vulture

    Old news, surely?

    FPGAs have been around for ages. (Wikipedia says 1984.) This sort of problem (small code, embarrassinly parallel) is their natural domain. So I'd be amazed if folks haven't been building code-breaking FPGA systems for 20 years.

  14. MarmiteToast

    Yes, done before

    I've seen this done at least three times before. I guess the new angle is that they were scavenged from plasma screens. It begs the question why they were in the controllers in the first place - did LG rush to get them out the door?

  15. alan
    Paris Hilton

    Breaking News - it is now possible

    using old bits from a Dyson, to hack into NASA.

    Paris, because the inside of her head must be like a vacuum.

  16. Neil

    Soudns good

    Maybe my TV can break the encryption on Sky Sports for me!

  17. Frank Bough
    IT Angle

    FPGAs make good, fast DSPs is NEWS?

    Just what did you think FPGA were for?

  18. Robert Hill
    Black Helicopters

    @ MarmiteToast

    LG probably didn't rush them out the door (although they are far from my favored brand of anything). It's just that the use of FPGAs allows software updates all through the development and production cycle - which probably was a concern in the early HDTV days, with the possibility of standards changes and incompatibilities arising. Also, while an ASIC would be cheaper per chip (and used less power), they have large design and setup costs, which may not have been worthwhile in something that didn't sell in very, very large numbers (i.e., first or second generation plasma TVs).

    WRT the article, it appears that the tinkerers have finally managed to do something that NSA probably did about 10-15 years ago...woopie. Makes you wonder what they have been listening in on all this time. I am beginning to think that paper, a toothpick and lemon juice is the only secure communications protocol available these days...

  19. Jonathan Adams

    Random Data

    You ever wondered if it'd be good to cat /dev/random to a file and ask any of these guys to decrypt it?

    I reckon they could do it in half an hour :)

  20. Anonymous Coward

    not new(s)


    for ages you've been able to buy FPGAs that plug into a spare

    CPU slot on an AMD motherboard - they sit on the hypertransport BUS and allow you to do phenomenally fast work

    i investigated the practical issue/use of such boards in our workplace and

    although security audits with john the ripper might have been ridiculously fast,

    there was little benefit to other tasks (with our current code and knowledge)

  21. toby

    As already stated...

    ...FPGAs for key cracking is old news. For example:

    Just cos someone ripped 'em from a plasma doesent make this news. Then again, I do like to hear about FPGAs... gotta love 'em.

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