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 July 1, 1997

The Eye: Computer code not all it’s cracked up to be

How many wrongs does it take to make a right?

The Eye gaped wide to find out that in the case of Loveland computer programmer Rocke Verser, it took 18 quadrillion. That’s how many keys Verser and a nationwide team of students, programmers and scientists searched in order to break a message encrypted with the government’s 56-bit Data Encryption Standard algorithm.

The numbers are difficult to picture even in The Eye’s mind’s eye. Thousands of computers linked together over the Internet tested 18 quadrillion keys at a rate of almost 7 billion keys per second to discover the message, “Strong cryptography makes the world a safer place,” and win the $10,000 DES challenge.

Faced with more than 72 quadrillion possible keys, DESCHALL, as the crack team of computer nerds called themselves, met the challenge sponsored by RSA Data Security Inc. and broke the code after searching about 25 percent of the possible keys.

DESCHALL’s effort may not place DES-encrypted messages on par with a locker combination, but it does call into question a recent administration proposal to limit some systems to the 56-bit DES standard broken by the team.

The Eye asks, are your secrets safe?

” ” “

As The Eye scanned this issue’s data on the region’s Highest-Paid Executives, we couldn’t help but wonder where Fort Collins’ newest public-company executive would rank, had his company been public last year.

So we secured a copy of Heska Corp.’s registration statement with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission to find out exactly how much president and CEO Fred Schwarzer pulled in during 1996.

The answer? A cool $200,000 in salary, no bonuses — paltry compared with the millions raked in by some on the sister ranking of highest-paid execs of companies with local operations, but substantial enough by Northern Colorado standards.

Had Schwarzer qualified for our ranking — and he will next year — he would have come in at No. 5, trailing only Advanced Energy’s Douglas Schatz, Concepts Direct’s Philip Wiland and J. Michael Wolfe (Nos. 2 and 4 respectively) and Atrix Laboratories’ John Urheim.

As for The Eye, we’re seriously considering a career change. Hmmm — perhaps something in the biotech, high-tech or mail-order arenas.

“ ” “

In this issue you’ll find correspondent Richard Gross’ article on the Kelsey Lake diamond mine and the battle between railroad and mining interests. It’s a fascinating conflict, and one that reminds The Eye of the continual lessons learned from a certain professor of Western American history.

Patricia Nelson Limerick of the University of Colorado speaks often of the seemlessness of history, with past conflicts still reverberating today. That’s certainly true with the diamond caper, in which the railroad is citing century-old documents as evidence of its claim to mineral rights in the Kelsey Lake region of Colorado and Wyoming.

The Eye almost expects to see a range war open up between cattle and sheep interests on the way to Ault.

How many wrongs does it take to make a right?

The Eye gaped wide to find out that in the case of Loveland computer programmer Rocke Verser, it took 18 quadrillion. That’s how many keys Verser and a nationwide team of students, programmers and scientists searched in order to break a message encrypted with the government’s 56-bit Data Encryption Standard algorithm.

The numbers are difficult to picture even in The Eye’s mind’s eye. Thousands of computers linked together over the Internet tested 18 quadrillion keys at a rate of almost 7 billion keys per second to discover the message, “Strong cryptography makes…

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