Using Password Crackers to Analyze the Virus

In addition to helping doctors provide care, technologists are helping researchers find a vaccine for the coronavirus. White hat hackers are using crowdsourced simulations to understand how the virus behaves. The red team at CRITICALSTART found that the company’s password cracker Cthulhu can be used to run computer simulations that mimic the same complex protein folding that occurs in viruses. By using computational algorithms that simulate protein folding, doctors and healthcare professionals can better understand the virus and potentially identify an effective vaccine. Cthulhu can brute-force all combinations of upper case, lower case, space, number, and symbols from a single character to eight-character passwords iteratively in roughly six hours. Analyzing the molecular makeup of a virus takes similar levels of computing power.

CRITICALSTART is sharing its work with Folding@home. This volunteer effort is a distributed computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics. The project uses the idle resources of personal computers owned by volunteers around the world.

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Featured in TechRepublic | March 17, 2020

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