PlayStation 3The powerful processors in Sony’s PlayStation 3 gaming console now have another use: cracking passwords.

New Zealand-based security researcher Nick Breese claims to have used the year-old gaming console to crack passwords at speeds 100 times greater than Intel hardware is capable of. Breese, a security consultant with, presented his findings to the Kiwicon hacker conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

Breese, who has been working on the project, called “Crackstation”, for the past six months, used the Sony PlayStation 3 gaming console for his break-through research. PS3’s Cell Broadband Engine technology was created by IBM, Toshiba and Sony. The companies collaborated to create the CBE, commonly known as Cell, processor, which consists of one scalar processor and eight vector processors.

PS3s are useful for “brute force” hacking, which simply tries all possible combinations for a password until it hits the right one. A network of PS3s can crack an eight-character password in a few days, whereas other computers might take weeks. Higher-end computers can achieve the same result, but, Breese points out, cost a great deal more and aren’t readily available on a Toys R Us shelf.

PlayStation 3 can also be used to break basic encryption schemes, Breese says, although widely used ciphers such as the 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), used to protect online banking transactions, remain safe. “It’ll speed up the attacks but I can’t see that it’s broken,” he says. “(It) is still safe because the people implementing the ciphers foresaw CPU power rapidly increasing.”