ASIC devices is Avalon, who sell a machine capable of 85 gigahashes for 101.14 BTC (approx $11,000 – they don’t take “cash”). It uses around 600 Watts of power. The $11,000 purchase could make $50,000 within 5 months (difficulty increasing at 20%/m and BTC-AUD rate at 2c/day). Over the course of it’s useful life (around 31 months until it difficulty gets too hard for it and it costs more for power), it will make about $117,000. Which is insane. Of course you can’t resell the ASIC device once it gets to this point, but who cares – it made you a heap of money. That is of course, if there isn’t a flood of ASICs and difficulty doesn’t skyrocket 40% or 50% per month.
ASICs are optimized for bitcoin mining. Not just Sha256(Sha256(x)) hashing, but very specifically bitcoin mining. You can’t even use them for the Sha256(Sha256(x)) hashing in the rest of the bitcoin system, like hashing transactions.
The ASICs are made for hashing 80 bytes, where you give them the midstate from hashing the first chunk (64 bytes), and 12 bytes from the second chunk. They then try all variations of the last 4 bytes to try and find a hash that starts with 4 zero-bytes. Only values that result in the 4 zero-bytes are reported at all. That’s basically what mining is.
The ASIC could aid in password cracking if:
* the hashes are generated with sha256(sha256(x))
* salt + password = 80 bytes
* the hash starts with 4 zero-bytes
This shows that a group like the NSA could produce dedicated ASIC hardware targeted for decryption for multi-exaflop to zettaflop equivalent decryption power.
Of course decryption can be made exponentially more difficult with longer codes. Longer codes can make the memory and hardware requirements beyond any physical classical computing reach and there are algorithms and codes that are resistant to quantum algorithms.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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