Entries Tagged "DRM"

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Master HDCP Key Cracked

The master key for the High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection standard — that’s what encrypts digital television between set-top boxes and digital televisions — has been cracked and published. (Intel confirmed that the key is real.) The ramifications are unclear:

But even if the code is real, it might not immediately foster piracy as the cracking of CSS on DVDs did more than a decade ago. Unlike CSS, which could be implemented in software, HDCP requires custom hardware. The threat model for Hollywood, then, isn’t that a hacker could use the master key to generate a DeCSS-like program for HD, but that shady hardware makers, perhaps in China, might eventually create and sell black-market HDCP cards that would allow the free copying of protected high-def content.

Posted on September 17, 2010 at 1:57 PMView Comments

TPM to End Piracy

Ha ha ha ha. Famous last words from Atari founder Nolan Bushnell:

“There is a stealth encryption chip called a TPM that is going on the motherboards of most of the computers that are coming out now,” he pointed out

“What that says is that in the games business we will be able to encrypt with an absolutely verifiable private key in the encryption world — which is uncrackable by people on the internet and by giving away passwords — which will allow for a huge market to develop in some of the areas where piracy has been a real problem.”

“TPM” stands for “Trusted Platform Module.” It’s a chip that is probably already in your computer and may someday be used to enforce security: both your security, and the security of software and media companies against you. The system is complicated, and while it will prevent some attacks, there are lots of ways to hack it. (I’ve written about TPM here, and here when Microsoft called it Palladium. Ross Anderson has some good stuff here.)

Posted on May 29, 2008 at 6:33 AMView Comments

Lock-In

Buying an iPhone isn’t the same as buying a car or a toaster. Your iPhone comes with a complicated list of rules about what you can and can’t do with it. You can’t install unapproved third-party applications on it. You can’t unlock it and use it with the cellphone carrier of your choice. And Apple is serious about these rules: A software update released in September 2007 erased unauthorized software and — in some cases — rendered unlocked phones unusable.

Bricked” is the term, and Apple isn’t the least bit apologetic about it.

Computer companies want more control over the products they sell you, and they’re resorting to increasingly draconian security measures to get that control. The reasons are economic.

Control allows a company to limit competition for ancillary products. With Mac computers, anyone can sell software that does anything. But Apple gets to decide who can sell what on the iPhone. It can foster competition when it wants, and reserve itself a monopoly position when it wants. And it can dictate terms to any company that wants to sell iPhone software and accessories.

This increases Apple’s bottom line. But the primary benefit of all this control for Apple is that it increases lock-in. “Lock-in” is an economic term for the difficulty of switching to a competing product. For some products — cola, for example — there’s no lock-in. I can drink a Coke today and a Pepsi tomorrow: no big deal. But for other products, it’s harder.

Switching word processors, for example, requires installing a new application, learning a new interface and a new set of commands, converting all the files (which may not convert cleanly) and custom software (which will certainly require rewriting), and possibly even buying new hardware. If Coke stops satisfying me for even a moment, I’ll switch: something Coke learned the hard way in 1985 when it changed the formula and started marketing New Coke. But my word processor has to really piss me off for a good long time before I’ll even consider going through all that work and expense.

Lock-in isn’t new. It’s why all gaming-console manufacturers make sure that their game cartridges don’t work on any other console, and how they can price the consoles at a loss and make the profit up by selling games. It’s why Microsoft never wants to open up its file formats so other applications can read them. It’s why music purchased from Apple for your iPod won’t work on other brands of music players. It’s why every U.S. cellphone company fought against phone number portability. It’s why Facebook sues any company that tries to scrape its data and put it on a competing website. It explains airline frequent flyer programs, supermarket affinity cards and the new My Coke Rewards program.

With enough lock-in, a company can protect its market share even as it reduces customer service, raises prices, refuses to innovate and otherwise abuses its customer base. It should be no surprise that this sounds like pretty much every experience you’ve had with IT companies: Once the industry discovered lock-in, everyone started figuring out how to get as much of it as they can.

Economists Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian even proved that the value of a software company is the total lock-in. Here’s the logic: Assume, for example, that you have 100 people in a company using MS Office at a cost of $500 each. If it cost the company less than $50,000 to switch to Open Office, they would. If it cost the company more than $50,000, Microsoft would increase its prices.

Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms. Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it’s copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren’t what we normally think of as security: They don’t protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from us.

Microsoft has been planning this sort of control-based security mechanism for years. First called Palladium and now NGSCB (Next-Generation Secure Computing Base), the idea is to build a control-based security system into the computing hardware. The details are complicated, but the results range from only allowing a computer to boot from an authorized copy of the OS to prohibiting the user from accessing “unauthorized” files or running unauthorized software. The competitive benefits to Microsoft are enormous (.pdf).

Of course, that’s not how Microsoft advertises NGSCB. The company has positioned it as a security measure, protecting users from worms, Trojans and other malware. But control does not equal security; and this sort of control-based security is very difficult to get right, and sometimes makes us more vulnerable to other threats. Perhaps this is why Microsoft is quietly killing NGSCB — we’ve gotten BitLocker, and we might get some other security features down the line — despite the huge investment hardware manufacturers made when incorporating special security hardware into their motherboards.

In my last column, I talked about the security-versus-privacy debate, and how it’s actually a debate about liberty versus control. Here we see the same dynamic, but in a commercial setting. By confusing control and security, companies are able to force control measures that work against our interests by convincing us they are doing it for our own safety.

As for Apple and the iPhone, I don’t know what they’re going to do. On the one hand, there’s this analyst report that claims there are over a million unlocked iPhones, costing Apple between $300 million and $400 million in revenue. On the other hand, Apple is planning to release a software development kit this month, reversing its earlier restriction and allowing third-party vendors to write iPhone applications. Apple will attempt to keep control through a secret application key that will be required by all “official” third-party applications, but of course it’s already been leaked.

And the security arms race goes on …

This essay previously appeared on Wired.com.

EDITED TO ADD (2/12): Slashdot thread.

And critical commentary, which is oddly political:

This isn’t lock-in, it’s called choosing a product that meets your needs. If you don’t want to be tied to a particular phone network, don’t buy an iPhone. If installing third-party applications (between now and the end of February, when officially-sanctioned ones will start to appear) is critically important to you, don’t buy an iPhone.

It’s one thing to grumble about an otherwise tempting device not supporting some feature you would find useful; it’s another entirely to imply that this represents anti-libertarian lock-in. The fact remains, you are free to buy one of the many other devices on the market that existed before there ever was an iPhone.

Actually, lock-in is one of the factors you have to consider when choosing a product to meet your needs. It’s not one thing or the other. And lock-in is certainly not “anti-libertarian.” Lock-in is what you get when you have an unfettered free market competing for customers; it’s libertarian utopia. Government regulations that limit lock-in tactics — something I think would be very good for society — is what’s anti-libertarian.

Here’s a commentary on that previous commentary. This is some good commentary, too.

Posted on February 12, 2008 at 6:08 AMView Comments

Australian Porn Filter Cracked

The headline is all you need to know:

Teen cracks AU$84 million porn filter in 30 minutes

(AU$84 million is $69.5 million U.S.; that’s real money.)

Remember that the issue isn’t that one smart kid can circumvent the censorship software, it’s that one smart kid — maybe this one, maybe another one — can write a piece of shareware that allows everyone to circumvent the censorship software.

It’s the same with DRM; technical measures just aren’t going to work.

Posted on August 30, 2007 at 12:50 PMView Comments

New Harry Potter Book Leaked on BitTorrent

It’s online: digital photographs of every page are available on BitTorrent.

I’ve been fielding press calls on this, mostly from reporters asking me what the publisher could have done differently. Honestly, I don’t think it was possible to keep the book under wraps. There are millions of copies of the book headed to all four corners of the globe. There are simply too many people who must be trusted in order for the security to hold. And all it takes is one untrustworthy person — one truck driver, one bookstore owner, one warehouse worker — to leak the book.

But conversely, I don’t think the publishers should care. Anyone fan-crazed enough to read digital photographs of the pages a few days before the real copy comes out is also someone who is going to buy a real copy. And anyone who will read the digital photographs instead of the real book would have borrowed a copy from a friend. My guess is that the publishers will lose zero sales, and that the pre-release will simply increase the press frenzy.

I’m kind of amazed the book hadn’t leaked sooner.

And, of course, it is inevitable that we’ll get ASCII copies of the book post-publication, for all of you who want to read it on your PDA.

EDITED TO ADD (7/18): I was interviewed for “Future Tense” on this story.

EDITED TO ADD (7/20): This article outlines some of the security measures the publisher took with the manuscript.

EDITED TO ADD (7/25): The camera has a unique serial number embedded in each of the digital photos which might be used to track the author. Just another example of how we leave electronic footprints everywhere we go.

EDITED TO ADD (8/15): Here is a much more comprehensive analysis of who the leaker is:

  • The photographer is Caucasian.
  • The photographer is probably not married (no wedding ring on left hand).
  • The photographer is likely male. In the first few photos, the ring finger appears to be longer than the index finger. This is called the 2D:4D ratio and a lower ratio is symptomatic a high level of testosterone, suggesting a male. However, there is no clear shot of the fingers layed out, so this is not conclusive.
  • Although cameras are usually designed for right-handed use, the photographer uses his left hand to pin down the book. This suggests that the photographer is right handed. (I’ve seen southpaws try to do this sort of thing, and they usually hold the camera in an odd way with their left hand.) However, this too is not conclusive.
  • The photographer’s hand looks young — possibly a teenager or young adult.

Much, much more in the link.

Posted on July 17, 2007 at 4:38 PMView Comments

Watermarking DNA

It’s not cryptography — despite the name — but it’s interesting:

DNA-based watermarks using the DNA-Crypt algorithm

Background

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the application of watermarks based on DNA sequences to identify the unauthorized use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) protected by patents. Predicted mutations in the genome can be corrected by the DNA-Crypt program leaving the encrypted information intact. Existing DNA cryptographic and steganographic algorithms use synthetic DNA sequences to store binary information however, although these sequences can be used for authentication, they may change the target DNA sequence when introduced into living organisms.

Results

The DNA-Crypt algorithm and image steganography are based on the same watermark-hiding principle, namely using the least significant base in case of DNA-Crypt and the least significant bit in case of the image steganography. It can be combined with binary encryption algorithms like AES, RSA or Blowfish. DNA-Crypt is able to correct mutations in the target DNA with several mutation correction codes such as the Hamming-code or the WDH-code. Mutations which can occur infrequently may destroy the encrypted information, however an integrated fuzzy controller decides on a set of heuristics based on three input dimensions, and recommends whether or not to use a correction code. These three input dimensions are the length of the sequence, the individual mutation rate and the stability over time, which is represented by the number of generations. In silico experiments using the Ypt7 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae shows that the DNA watermarks produced by DNA-Crypt do not alter the translation of mRNA into protein.

Conclusions

The program is able to store watermarks in living organisms and can maintain the original information by correcting mutations itself. Pairwise or multiple sequence alignments show that DNA-Crypt produces few mismatches between the sequences similar to all steganographic algorithms.

Paper here.

Posted on June 8, 2007 at 11:47 AMView Comments

Commentary on Vista Security and the Microsoft Monopoly

This is right:

As Dan Geer has been saying for years, Microsoft has a bit of a problem. Either it stonewalls and pretends there is no security problem, which is what Vista does, by taking over your computer to force patches (and DRM) down its throat. Or you actually change the basic design and produce a secure operating system, which risks people wondering why they’re sticking with Windows and Microsoft, then? It turns out the former course may also result in the latter result:

If you fit Microsoft’s somewhat convoluted definition of poor, it still wants to lock you in, you might get rich enough to afford the full-priced stuff someday. It is at a dangerous crossroads, if its software bumps up the price of a computer by 100 per cent, people might look to alternatives.

That means no MeII DRM infection lock in, no mass migration to the newer Office obfuscated and patented file formats, and worse yet, people might utter the W word. Yes, you guessed it, ‘why’. People might ask why they are sticking with the MS lock in, and at that point, it is in deep trouble.

Monopolies eventually overreach themselves and die. Maybe it’s finally Microsoft’s time to die. That would decrease the risk to the rest of us.

Posted on April 27, 2007 at 7:03 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.