Federal officials have put the PS3 to work breaking passwords on computer equipment confiscated from suspected child pornographers, according to a story released on the Scripps Howard Foundation wire.
Though they aren't using the new PS3 Slim (since you can't install Linux on the new models) purchasing 20 old PS3 units is still about $8,000 cheaper than the Dell servers C3 had used previously. The unorthodox console approach has been so effective that agents are scouring eBay to find the best deal on another 40 consoles to round out their collection.
"Bad guys are encrypting their stuff now, so we need a methodology of hacking on that to try to break passwords," Claude E. Davenport, an agent in the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center, told the Scripps reporter. "The Playstation 3 - its processing component - is perfect for large-scale library attacks."
Agents need computing power to break these codes because while a search warrant allows them to seize incriminating documents or digital evidence, the Fourth Amendment grants suspects the right to withhold their password information.
To crack the code (there are over 280 trillion possible strings in a six-character alphanumeric password) C3 needs the processing power of about $11,000 worth of computers, which is now being provided by a network of PS3 consoles at a quarter of the cost.
Unfortunately for federal investigators, the consoles are strictly for work use only. "There's no controllers hooked up," claimed Davenport.