Using the "brute force" technique of recovering passwords, it was possible, though time-consuming, to recover passwords from popular applications. For example, the logon password for Windows Vista might be an eight-character string composed of uppercase and lowercase alphabetic characters. There would about 55 trillion (52 to the eighth power) possible passwords. Windows Vista uses NTLM hashing by default, so using a modern dual-core PC you could test up to 10,000,000 passwords per second, and perform a complete analysis in about two months. With ElcomSoft's new technology, the process would take only three to five days, depending upon the CPU and GPU.
Until recently, graphic cards' GPUs couldn't be used for applications such as password recovery. Older graphics chips could only perform floating-point calculations, and most cryptography algorithms require fixed-point mathematics. Today's chips can process fixed-point calculations. And with as much as 1.5 Gb of onboard video memory and up to 128 processing units, these powerful GPU chips are much more effective than CPUs in performing many of these calculations.
In February, 2007 NVIDIA, the worldwide leader in programmable graphics processor technologies, launched CUDA, a C-Compiler and developer's kit that gives software developers access to the parallel processing power of the GPU through the standard language of C. NVIDIA GPUs (GeForce 8 and above) act as multiprocessors with multiple registers and shared memory and cache. ElcomSoft has harnessed their computing power, and will be incorporating this patent-pending technology into their entire family of enterprise password recovery applications. Since high-end PC mother boards can work with four separate video cards, the future is bright for even faster password recovery applications.
Preliminary tests using ElcomSoft Distributed Password Recovery product to recover Windows NTLM logon passwords show that the recovery speed has increased by a factor of twenty, simply by hooking up with a $150 video card's onboard GPU. ElcomSoft expects to find similar results as this new technology is incorporated into their password recovery products for Microsoft Office, PGP, and dozens of other popular applications.