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Group ditches bid to crack Xbox code

A computing project abandons its effort to crack the main security code for Microsoft's Xbox video game console.

A computing project has abandoned its effort to crack the main security code for Microsoft's Xbox video game console.

An update on the home page for The Neo Project says the group is no longer working on the Xbox "due to legal reasons."

Project founder Mike Curry said in an e-mail interview that he couldn't elaborate. "We cannot comment on anything that has happened in the last 24 hours; we can only say that we can no longer participate in the Xbox challenge," he said.

Microsoft representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Neo Project is a group of computing enthusiasts devoted to cracking security challenges using distributed computing techniques, in which heavy-duty computing tasks are divvied up among a number of PCs. The group's initial software release focused on a $10,000 challenge from computer security firm RSA Security to crack a 576-bit encryption code.

A subsequent software release was aimed at cracking the 2,048-bit encryption code used by the Xbox. A cracked encryption code could allow hackers to run homemade Linux software on an unmodified Xbox, satisfying a $100,000 hacking challenge funded by Michael Robertson, chief executive of Linux software company Lindows.

Curry said The Neo Project will continue to work on RSA's 576-bit challenge and may expand to work on another RSA bid to crack a 2,048-bit encryption key, an effort that could aid Xbox hackers.

"We were disappointed to see (the Xbox) project came to a short end," he said. "But looking ahead, we are going to continue plans to implement a better-known method into our client and maybe fill the Xbox void with the RSA-2,048 bit challenge."