Thomas Roth, a German security researcher has found an innovative use for cloud computing: cracking wireless networks that rely on pre-shared key passphrases, such as those found in homes and smaller businesses.
"Roth has created a program that runs on Amazon's Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) system. It uses the massive computing power of EC2 to run through 400,000 possible passwords per second, a staggering amount, hitherto unheard of outside supercomputing circles -- and very likely made possible because EC2 now allows graphics processing units (GPUs) to be used for computational tasks. Among other things, these're particularly suited to password cracking tasks."
Roth's software merely generates millions of passphrases, encrypts them, and sees if they allow access to the network.
However, employing the theoretically infinite resources of cloud computing to brute force a password is the clever part.
Purchasing the computers to run such a crack would cost tens of thousands of dollars, but Roth claims that a typical wireless password can be guessed by EC2 and his software in about six minutes. He proved this by hacking networks in the area where he lives. The type of EC2 computers used in the attack costs 28 cents per minute, so $1.68 is all it could take to lay open a wireless network.