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Nvidia’s GTX 1080 can crack passwords as easily as it can game

Nvidia’s latest GTX 1080 graphics card is good for more than just gaming, turns out its new Pascal architecture is excellent for digital forensics, in particular, cracking passwords.

The properties which make a killer GPU are also pretty great for subverting password protections. Designed to run parallel computations better than an average CPU, a GPU can outperform the most powerful Intel or AMD chips by virtue of the fact that they’re designed to handle data a little differently than a standard processor.

CPUs are ultimately better for handling different kinds of data all at once. Think day-to-day tasks like running multiple applications concurrently. CPUs excel at this kind of processing, while GPUs produce great gaming performance because they handle data in a fundamentally different manner.

GPUs are better at handling one kind of code, say a game, with tons of different data inputs at once. This parallel processing power is what makes a powerful GPU a necessity to get the most out of graphically demanding games.

Related: Borg-like G20CB systems from ASUS now come packing Nvidia GTX 1080s.

Making a crack at a password-protected Microsoft Word document, Nvidia’s GTX 1080, designed using the company’s new Pascal architecture, can reportedly make 7,100 different password attempts per second, while even the last generation GTX 980 can only make around 3,800 attempts per second, and a CPU alone can only make around 30 attempts per second. This is according to testing done by Oleg Afonin from security company Elcomsoft.

For example, Nvidia’s latest GTX 1080 can crack a standard six-character password in about 83 hours. Using a CPU alone, it would normally take a little over two years.

Even a low-end Nvidia or AMD GPU can crack a password about 20 to 40 times faster than a comparable CPU. Thanks to Nvidia’s new Pascal architecture, the same password could be cracked by a GTX 1080 around 250 times faster.

Of course, a gaming rig needs the right kind of software – and expertise behind the keyboard –  to even attempt this kind of password subversion, and not all password cracking software supports graphical acceleration just yet. But with performance boosts like these, it’s only a matter of time.