56-bit encryption cracked in 40 days

RSA Data Security said a group of computer programmers known as distributed.net has cracked the company's 56-bit key DES encryption code in the latest of a series of contests.

The group decoded a message in about 40 days, working through 72 quadrillion possible keys to come up with the one which produced the message "Many hands make light work," RSA officials said. The company hosts the crypto-cracking contests to demonstrate the need for stronger data-encoding technologies and to protest U.S. policies restricting the overseas sales of strong encryption.