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Russian password crackers woo governments

Controversial company fetches up at Cebit.

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Russian security vendor Elcomsoft is offering a 20 percent discount for law enforcement and government agencies for some of its password-cracking software.

Elcomsoft, based in Moscow, makes an array of products that can figure out the keys for encrypted documents such as Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF. Elcomsoft's software can also get the passwords for instant-message programs and Wi-Fi encryption keys, among many others.

The discount applies to customers that may already have volume or other price reductions applied for buying several of Elcomsoft's programs in a bundle. Software eligible for the discount includes the Password Recovery Bundle, Wireless Security Auditor, Proactive Password Auditor and Distributed Password Recovery products.

Elcomsoft sells its products to both to government organizations, such as intelligence agencies, and consumers. The US and Germany are the company's largest market, said Katerina Korolkova, Elcomsoft's public relations manager, who was manning the company's stand at the Cebit trade show on Wednesday.

However, the US government will not formally buy the company's software, in part because the company is located in Russia and also because there are many hurdles to becoming a preferred security software supplier, an Elcomsoft official said.

Elcomsoft has sold its software to people employed by agencies such as the CIA and FBI, but not as a formal purchase by those agencies, the official said.

Elcomsoft competes with companies such as AccessData, based in the US, which makes forensic software for computers as well as other password recovery products.

Elcomsoft's software is legal to use as long as the files are the owner's or someone has permission to grab the password or encryption keys.

The company's software can run on a regular PC or ones outfitted with graphic cards from Nvidia or ATI, now owned by microprocessor manufacturer AMD, which perform parallel processing and can figure out passwords or encryption keys much faster.


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