DES Challenge at UIUC

The Status

It was cracked! :) It's over. Everything else on this page should be written in the past tense.

The Deal

We are participating in a giant effort to crack a DES encrypted message. The reason? RSA Data Security has offered $10,000 to the first person who gives them the correct key. Rocke Verser created a client/server system to try every single key of the 72,057,594,037,927,936 possible keys. Anyone on the Internet can help out, and some people at the University of Illinois have grouped together to try and organize the efforts originating from our school.

Rocke Verser's DES Challenge homepage has all the information you need to get started. You can also read about RSA Data Security's challenge.

To help out, all you need is a Mac, Win95/NT, OS/2, or a Unix machine. The client software runs on almost anything. It runs in the background only using spare CPU cycles. The program is also very small, so the load on system resources is not noticable at all. Any spare CPU cycles being used gets us closer to finding the key.

The Software

To get the client software, you must be in North America. US export laws forbid it from leaving the country. Hopefully the statement made by cracking DES will nudge our government into reconsidering their export laws.

Client are available for a huge list of platforms: PC running almost any OS, Macs, and nearly every modern Unix. The best place to go for the software is here. It is fully automated, and has the most recent clients.

If you've got an NT or '95 machine, you might want to check out the DES GUI Front-End program. It has a nice interface and provides a great deal of extra functionality. More info can be found here.

Once you have the client, run it using as the server. Or you can use the UIUC UDP relay service at Either way you will be joining everyone else using Rocke's server.

The People

Lots of people at the U of I have organized their personal machines, and even the machines in the labs they run, to help out with the DES challenge efforts. Their names and machines are listed here.

If you are from the U of I, please register your machine by sending us email at If you don't want to be included in the list of people involved, just say so.

You can also join the U of I DES challenge mailing list by sending "subscribe desUI" in the body of an email message to ""

Last modified June 11, 1997. Cool logo by Mark Urban. Page designed and maintained by Back to my homepage