PlayStation 3 supercomputer places UMass Dartmouth #1 in the world in code cracking challenge list

Professor Gaurav Khanna's PS3 cluster, built to study black holes and cybersecurity, generates 50 billion keys per second with 1 in 10 chance of winning the international cryptography contest

UMass Dartmouth Associate Professor Dr. Gaurav Khanna's extremely low-cost supercomputer, built to study black holes and cybersecurity using 176 Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) gaming consoles, has enabled UMass Dartmouth's rank to soar to the top in the well-known RC5 cryptography challenge list.

American computer and network security company RSA Laboratories began the RC5 cryptography challenge in January 1997, presenting contestants with the opportunity to decode ciphers by finding secret cryptographic keys. The contest was initiated by RSA to demonstrate the security of various cryptography encryptions. Each of the contests is named after the variant of the "RC5" cipher used and corresponding projects, which continues to present day.

This unique supercomputer is generating approximately 50 billion keys per second and is slated to have a 1 in 10 chance for winning the contest all by itself. The supercomputer has been built to study various astrophysical problems associated to binary black hole systems and gravitational radiation. This system's performance is comparable to nearly 3000 processor-cores of a typical laptop or desktop.

The PS3 cluster is currently being used by UMass Dartmouth's Center for Scientific Computing and Visualization Research (CSCVR) to perform large and complex calculations in the context of black hole astrophysics, and also explore vulnerabilities in cybersecurity. Physics Department graduate students, Tyler Spilhaus and William Duff, are already utilizing the system extensively for their research projects in this context. In addition, Computer and Information Science major, Violet Pfeiffer, will be using the system to study different aspects of cryptography and cybersecurity.

The 176 Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) gaming consoles are installed in a refrigerated shipping container "reefer" of large cooling capability located on the University's campus. This novel approach is extremely low-cost given the abundant availability and high cooling capacity of these containers.

The CSCVR promotes the mission of UMass Dartmouth by providing undergraduate and graduate students with high quality discovery-based educational experiences that transcend the traditional boundaries of academic field or department, and foster collaborative research in the computational sciences within the University and with researchers at other universities, National Labs, and industry. Dr. Khanna serves as Associate Director of the Center.

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