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Gaming, Cracking, and Bitcoin - How are they so different and common at the same time?

Published: June 30, 2021 By Rezarta Meni

Gaming, Cracking, and Bitcoin – So different and common at once!

How many of you reading this article do not need to think for a while before answering the question: How are gaming, cracking, and bitcoin so different and common at the same time? What is that thing that unites all these different terms at first sight?

Ninety percent (90%) of the people I have met during my experience believe that any activity, like those performed by a hacker, requires very sophisticated computers. The truth is that in 2021, with a not very expensive laptop or cell phone and with the proper techniques, almost anything can be done.

The principal exemption is password cracking, cryptographic tasks like bitcoin mining, and gaming. In such cases, it could be important to put some extra resources into the hardware.

What I want to say is that everyone who does any of these activities should purchase a graphic card or a computer that has a GPU (graphics processing unit). The reason? Let's figure it out while reading this article.

 

What is a GPU and its evolution?

Whenever we talk about computers, we are probably talking about the CPU (central processing unit) and the fact that it is an essential component of the technological equipment we have in our hands since it manages all the tasks that need to be completed.

However, nowadays, computers contain another type of processor, known as GPU (graphical processing unit). GPUs are designed for graphics (e.g., games), but they can also be used by password crackers or Bitcoin miners.

In my opinion, none of the mentioned processors is superior to the other. The difference is that GPUs are designed having in mind highly repetitive calculations or multi-tasking, and the others having sequential processing.

How GPU works?

For more insight into how the GPU works, I can say that it simply breaks up an extensive calculation into smaller and independent parts, so in this way, it can perform faster.

Consider for a moment that you need to manually sum up two large matrices. Because there is a lot of work to be done, you invite some other colleagues. You inform them that everyone will be responsible only for calculating the result of a row. So later then you will add all the results into another matrix.

Since this process will be carried out independently, it is ok to be said that the calculations will be carried out "in parallel" as well.

The number of GPU’s cores determines how many parts the first given task can be divided into. If we go back in time and look at the number of cores over the years, we can see that they have increased significantly in recent years, reaching more than 10,000 cores today.

CPU and GPU compared in terms of cores

Image source – researchgate.net

Brief history of GPUs

NVIDIA's first commercial GPU, GeForce 256, was released in 1999. The company began to position itself as a leading GPU innovator in the 2000s. GPUs gained popularity due to their parallel processing ability, which allowed them to process graphics frames much faster than CPUs, resulting in a more seamless gaming experience.

Was 2007 when NVIDIA released CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture), a framework for software programmers that later allowed GPUs use in other fields.

Nowadays, most PCs are equipped with a standard GPU. iPhone, for example, has a PowerVR GPU, Intel (Sandy Bridge) CPUs have a personalized GPU integrated into the chip, and AMD processors have a Radeon GPU as well.

Looking at the market demands, if you are wondering how many computer GPUs are being sold nowadays, I can say that Nvidia and AMD both shipped around 12 million desktop GPUs in the first three months of 2021, and yet many customers returned home empty-handed.


Why is GPU important?

GPU Role in Gaming

GPUs are widely known to be very important while playing games because they represent all the scenes. Nvidia (GeForce cards), and AMD (Radeon cards) are the two leading manufacturers of today's high-end gaming cards.

Both sell various cards, from those less expensive and slower to the ones more expensive and faster.  The choice is yours; what I can say is that the faster your GPU can process information, the faster games with less stutter or freezing you will be able to play.

If we talk about Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, for example, I will recommend you an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB, GTX 1060 6GB, or Radeon R9 390/AMD RX 580. For more competitive players, I will recommend GeForce GTX 1080 or Radeon RX Vega 64 graphics cards.

Remember that you will also need a monitor which complies with their specifications; otherwise, purchasing these expensive graphics cards will not make sense because you will see no improvement in performance.

GPU Role in Password Cracking

Before I start talking about the role of GPUs in Password cracking, I want to remind you that people do not get into this just for entering into some restricted systems and attacking those.

There are also some legitimate reasons why password crackers exist, such as:

  • Test passwords' strength.
  • Ensure that users adhere to the password policy.
  • Learn about the password policy that you should follow.
  • Cryptography appears to be interesting, and you should give it a try, etc.

On the most basic level, password cracking appears to be a regular login. You just run a password through a hashing algorithm and compare it to the existing hash. If it matches,


Characters 8 10 12
Lowercase letters Immediately Immediately Couple of weeks
An extra uppercase letter + 30 min 1 month 5 years
One number + 1 h 6 years 2 thousand years
One symbol + 1 day 50 years 63 thousand years

you have successfully cracked the password. The main distinction is that you are performing thousands of these comparisons in a second.

But do you know or maybe have any idea which password is simpler to crack: a short password with multiple types of characters or a long password that consists only of letters? Let's find it out!

You can see, the longer the password is, the more combinations must be verified and the longer it takes to complete the process. I highly advise you not to neglect the password strength and use various letters, numbers, and symbols.

“Cain&Abel" and "John the Ripper" are two of the most well-known tools for password crackers in the past, and since these tools use CPU power, it will take many years to get the plaintext from the hash. However, we can shorten this time thanks to some more advanced tools like Hashcat, Rainbow Crack, Cryptohaze Multiforcer, etc., which use GPU cores to crack hashes.

Password Cracking with CPU-based tools

The first thing I need to do is to create a password hash, so I can later try to crack it. Hashing a password is required because it makes it impossible for others to read and also makes it easy to be stored.

There are numerous tools available to accomplish this, such as HashCalc, which generates various types of hashes. In my case, I used Rf9a5lp0 as a password and generated a md5 hash from it; the md5 hash I could obtained is 28a4e026159b6a8eba00c0f39cf3d2bb.

The next step is to select a CPU-based tool and to use it for cracking the hash. Among the tools mentioned above, I chose "Cain and Abel" as one of the most well-known.

After installing this tool, the screen below will pop up first. I have gone to the “Cracker“ window, have chosen the MD5 option, and added the generated hash. Still, there are also many different possibilities it gives that I can go through all in another article.

All that remains is to right-click in the hash and launch a Brute-force attack. The figure below shows that "Cain and Abel" have started to work, but the estimated time for cracking is approximately 6 days for a password with 8 alphanumeric characters; 22 years for 10 characters; and 28 thousand years for 12 characters... Consider the time required for a more secure password. Who can wait so long?!

 All that remains is to right-click in the hash and launch a Brute-force attack. The figure below shows that "Cain and Abel" have started to work, but the estimated time for cracking is approximately 6 days for a password with 8 alphanumeric characters; 22 years for 10 characters; and 28 thousand years for 12 characters... Consider the time required for a more secure password. Who can wait so long?!

Time required to crack a password using the Cain and Abel tool

Password Cracking with GPU-based tools

Now, I can do the same thing with GPU-based tools, but I need a dedicated desktop with the necessary hardware. IGHASHGPU is a command-line-based tool that I will use to crack the md5 hash in this case.

IGHASHGPU - GPU-based tools for password cracking

After installing and running ighashgpu.exe, I typed the following commands:

ighashgpu.exe/h:28a4e026159b6a8eba00c0f39cf3d2bb /t:md5 /c:csda /max:7 /cpudontcare

The average password cracking speed will be shown, which is typically around 1117 million per second, and the estimated time is approximately 11 min. However, in my case, the password Rf9a5lp0 is discovered in five minutes.

Here, you can see how quickly that hash can be cracked, whereas "Cain and Abel" would take days or years to decrypt the same hash.

GPU Role in Bitcoin Mining

Many years ago, cryptocurrency was unknown, and only after 2009, it began to come true. As a cryptocurrency task, bitcoin mining is the process of verifying blocks of bitcoin payments and adding those to a massive public ledger. This is accomplished through the use of highly sophisticated computers that solve highly complex mathematical computations.

Bitcoin mining began with CPUs, but the slow processing and high-power consumption rendered CPU-based mining inefficient. Simultaneously, the GPU-based mining process became more likely to be used simply because GPUs are more efficient than CPUs in this case.

This property of the GPUs makes them more relevant to the mining process since it necessitates a high level of efficiency in performing repetitive calculations The devices used in this process repeatedly attempt to decode the various hashes, with only one digit changing in each attempt.

GPUs are also equipped with a large number of Arithmetic Logic Units, which are in charge of performing mathematical computations. Because of these ALUs, the GPU can perform more calculations, resulting in higher output for the crypto mining process.


Сonclusion

There will always be some incentives to develop new technologies to solve today's complex problems. Freezing games, the thousands of years required to crack a password, and the inefficiency of CPUs for cryptocurrency tasks made GPUs absolutely necessary and the only thing that makes these various terms so common at the same time.

Having a GPU that improves gaming, password cracking speed, mathematical computations performed in the bitcoin mining process, or purchasing a GPU-based computer is a fantastic idea.

Please, use the information in this article for yourself and do not use some of the Password Cracking tools for non-legitimate reasons. If you have any experience using GPUs or any questions, then leave comments below the article.

Tags: 
Technology
Author
Rezarta Meni
IT Security Compliance Analyst with experience in identifying and remedying security deficiencies and gaps, investigating security needs, and recommends information security improvements based on the latest Cybersecurity events.

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