drive wipe

Aaron Toponce aaron.toponce at gmail.com
Thu Oct 23 18:03:21 MDT 2008


On Thu, Oct 23, 2008 at 05:32:53PM -0600, Nicholas Leippe wrote:
> What part about "the NSA measures it's computing power in _acres_" is so 
> difficult to extrapolate? This fact has been known and acknowledged for quite 
> some time. While it's exact meaning can certainly be debated, I'll bet you 
> lunch that a single acre full of commodity hardware all dedicated to watching 
> *your* data would make you uncomfortable (assuming you had something to hide).
> 
> Now, increase that to more than one acre, or replace that acre full of 
> "commodity hardware" with specialized ASICs, and you begin to see how much 
> their computing resources really could be said to dwarf most others. Also, 
> take into account that anyone else that has computing resources in or nearing 
> the same size class will most likely be dedicating them to whatever purpose 
> the owners want--after all they foot the bill, which is most probably not 
> going to be snooping your data or doing what you'd like with it. More likely 
> crunching geological surveys searching for possible oil deposits, or folding 
> proteins for drug research. Thus you couldn't really say that those resources 
> are at our command. Your best bet to actually get to use a large facility 
> would be within academia--and we all know how well those are typically funded.
> 
> I personally have never seen a data center that spanned even half an acre. 
> This doesn't mean they don't exist, of course. But, how many colos or private 
> facilities do you know of that are not only larger than an acre, but are also 
> populated entirely with hardware owned by the same entity? One example: Center 
> 7's newest, and largest colo is only .25 acres. I really don't think there are 
> going to be that many. The largest are probably the stock exchanges and 
> banking facilities that handle huge volumes of generated transactional data 
> and warehouse/mine that data.
> 
> Whether the NSA have quantum computers or some class of computing resource 
> that has not been heard of outside their locked doors is just guessing, and 
> IMO, I agree, much more unlikely--despite the fact that of all the people on 
> the planet, if there were such a thing, they'd be the ones to want to have it. 
> I think it's just a matter of having more of the best available than most 
> anyone else. Or, replace the comparison "than most anyone else" with "than the 
> very few other people with a similar agenda that are *not* government-funded" 
> and I think it gets weighted even heavier.
> 
> In short, I think 95% is probably really stretching it. I really do think they 
> have a significant advantage for their purposes. They have the budget to buy 
> hardware specialized to their agendas, and in large quantities. Civilian 
> budgets would have a hard time matching or even approaching those resources.
> IMO, 5% is not a significant advantage. What the number is is only a guess, 

I probably am stretching it, but at the cost of making a hard cold
point. Acres of computers means nothing. Get specific. Acres of quad
core xen processors with 32GB of RAM each, 1600Mhz FSBUS, etc, etc, etc
means much more to me. It's the generalizations and uncertainty that get
to me. Speculation is for children. I'm a computer scientist: I want
facts and logistical data.

Also, as you mentioned, many projects are taking advantage of distributed
computing spanning the globe. I'm a member of http://distributed.net,
where I'm spending my CPU brute forcing RC5-72 keys. Take a look at the
stats. We're probably running in the neighborhood of 30 Pf/s, and
yet, it's going to take us close to 1,000 years to successfully test
every key in the keyspace. Of course, we'll probably hit the key long
before that point, but it shows the strength of the RC5-72, and the amount
of resources needed to brute force it. Now sick my 1024/1792/2048 GPG
key after the same method, and would be long after the heat death of
the universe before you could say you sucessfully tested every key. What
about the NSA? Think they can do it within my lifetime? Or even my
seventh-great grandkids? Doubt it. Maybe if quantum computing comes
along. Even then, I'm still skeptical.

However, I am never questioning that they are taking advantage of the
brightest minds, the sharpest methods, the most powerful hardware, and
endless supplies of money. But c'mon, we have to keep our head in the
clouds. They're human, not gods.

I have to ask, though: have you seen a government datacenter? What about
one that spanned acres? :)

-- 
                       _
Aaron Toponce         ( )  ASCII Ribbon Campaign
www.aarontoponce.org   X   www.asciiribbon.org
                      / \
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