The PlayStation 3 has been used for a variety of altruistic tasks following its launch in 2006. Perhaps the most high-profile of these ventures is the Folding@home project, which uses spare processing power from idling, networked PS3s to undertake the arduous task of simulating protein folding in order to study the causes of various diseases.
The latest effort to harness the PS3's processing power for good comes from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center. As reported by Axcess News, the Cyber Crimes Center (C3) is using networked PS3s to capture sexual predators by cracking passwords on computers suspected of containing child pornography.
The report notes that while law enforcement agents can execute a warrant to secure the physical computers, the Fourth Amendment protects suspected predators from surrendering passwords and other encryption material. As such, the agency attempts to crack the passwords by using a program that tries all possible key combinations. The report notes that a six-digit password has nearly 282 trillion possible permutations, and the networked PS3 can attempt 4 million guesses per second.
"Bad guys are encrypting their stuff now, so we need a methodology of hacking on that to try to break passwords," said C3 senior special agent Claude E. Davenport. "The PlayStation 3--its processing component--is perfect for large-scale library attacks."
Davenport went on to note that while other gaming consoles could technically also accomplish the task, the agency also needs to install software using the open-source operating system Linux. However, C3 must use pre-PS3 Slim units, as new restrictions introduced with the latest iteration of the console prevent the agency from installing the open-source operating system.