Military Encryption-Breaking Project from Department of Defense Found Unencrypted on Backup Server

An alleged Department of Defense encryption-breaking program developed in collaboration with IBM and the New York University was accidentally found unencrypted on a backup server inside New York University by a security researcher.

Code-named “WindsorGreen”, the project details advanced math systems designed to break encryption and brute-force passwords. While the project was allegedly in development between 2005 and 2012, the documents suggest it wouldn’t have been ready until 2014.

The tool used to find the documents seems to have been Shodan, an internet-of-things scanning search engine, designed to find internet-connected IoT devices with poor authentication credentials. While the schematics are highly advanced and include design specs for new hardware, cryptography experts believe their purpose is to specifically break codes and encryption faster, at lower production costs per hardware.

However, despite the advanced designs of the code-breaking system, computer researcher Andrew Huang believes that modern encryption mechanisms would render the proposed code-hacking system ineffective.

“As long as you use long keys and recent-generation hashes, you should be OK,” said Huang. “Even if [WindsorGreen] gave a 100x advantage in cracking strength, it’s a pittance compared to the additional strength conferred by going from say, 1024-bit RSA to 4096-bit RSA or going from SHA-1 to SHA-256.”

While it’s unclear at this point whether or not “WindsorGreen” was more than just a proposed project, there have currently been no official statements on the matter from either IBM or the DOJ. However, it’s ironic that an alleged encryption-breaking project would be stored unencrypted, on a publicly available backup server, accessible with no authentication credentials.

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