The Neo Project, a group that uses distributed computing techniques to crack security challenges, on Wednesday began offering software for its "Operation Project X."
Distributed computing, best known by the Seti@Home project searching for signs of extraterrestrial life, divvies up complex computing tasks among myriad computers. The Neo Project software will use thousands of PCs to try to guess the 2,048-bit encryption code used by the Xbox, an approach that could take years to yield results.
A cracked encryption code could allow hackers to run homemade Linux software on an unmodified Xbox, satisfying aby Michael Robertson, chief executive of Linux software company Lindows.
The Neo Projectlate last year but , citing unspecified legal concerns.
Project founder Mike Curry said in an e-mail interview that after consulting with lawyers, he was confident the new project was on solid legal ground as an educational research project. "We will not actually break any laws until we crack the code," he said.
Microsoft zealously has fought efforts to crack security systems built into the Xbox, particularly "mod chips," gray-market add-ons that can be installed in consoles to bypass security measures. The company has, sued a , and used its to thwart mod chips. The U.S. Department of Justice entered the fray late last month, for allegedly violating provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.