Print 39 comment(s) - last by leexgx.. on Dec 1 at 9:44 PM

Researchers say pirates will likely use easier routes to crack the scheme, but that espionage risk is possible

Intel Corp. (INTC) has enjoyed a profitable ride off its High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) hardware, which sits inside nearly every TV/computer monitor with HDMI or DVI input.  The HDMI/DVI chips with HDCP functionality open a secure encrypted channel from a source (e.g. a Blu-ray player) to a computer monitor or TV.

I. Defeating HDCP Was Easy

Even as other content protection schemes were defeated, HDCP hung strong. But in 2010, the master key leaked for HDCP giving the world the first hope of cracking the scheme.  But Intel reassured its partners that they had nothing to worry about -- they laughed that unless would-be hardware hackers "made a computer chip" the scheme would be safe.
The only thing they forgot about was the growing amount of cheap reprogrammable chips known as field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which allow you to quickly make and test chip designs in software.
Using an ATLYS board manufactured by a company named Digilent, researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) -- a college in the town of Bochum, located roughly 2 hr. and 15 min. northwest of Frankfurt -- were able to carry out a-man-in-the-middle attack, with the FPGA posing as a legitimate interface chip and going undetected.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tim Güneysu, the principal investigator and senior author of the work summarizes [press release], "We developed an independent hardware solution instead, based on a cheap FPGA board.  We were able to tap the HDCP encrypted data streams, decipher them and send the digital content to an unprotected screen via a corresponding HDMI 1.3-compatible receiver."
The ATLYS board cost only 200€ (~$267).  The board comes with a Xilinx, Inc. (XLNX) Spartan-6 series FPGA, DRAM, HDMI interfaces, and a serial RS232 port.  Most of the work on the project was carried out by final-year student Benno Lomb.

The little board that slew HDCP 1.x. [Image Source: RUB]

Dr.-Ing. Güneysu summarizes Intel's claims of invulnerability as foolish arrogance.  He states, "[O]ur intention was to fundamentally investigate the safety of the HDCP system and to financially assess the actual cost for the complete knockout.  The fact that we have achieved our goal in a degree thesis and with material costs of approximately 200 Euro definitely does not speak for the safety of the current HDCP system."

II. The Current Dangers -- Piracy, Not so Much, Espionage Maybe.

The work will be presented at the international security conference ReConFig 2011 in Cancun, Mexico, which is being held between Nov. 30 (Wed.) and Dec. 2 (Fri.).

It is unknown whether the team will publish their FPGA code, which could allow pirates and hardware hackers to buy FPGAs and defeat the protection.  However, they insist that their goal was not to promote piracy.  They say there's other far simpler ways of defeating HDCP available to pirates.

In October 2008 Intel released HDCP 2.0, which provides additional protection against this kind of attack.  The hardware is currently on HDCP 2.1.  But legacy systems abound and remain vulnerable to the HDCP 1.x capable attacks.  The researchers say this could pose a security threat to the military or government agencies.

Sources: Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, reghardware

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By ertomas on 11/28/2011 1:12:34 PM , Rating: 5
Probable hundreds or millions spent on R&D to develop HDCP and it got cracked with a 200 EUR budget...

When will they learn?

RE: Waste
By FITCamaro on 11/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: Waste
By DT_Reader on 11/28/2011 4:36:54 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, stops the "average person" - the ones who paid for a legal copy - from making a legal, fair use backup. Meanwhile, the real pirates - the ones who make thousands of copies for retail sale - just copy the encrypted disk, which the end-user's blue-ray player decrypts just fine - annoying adverts, previews, and all.

RE: Waste
By Camikazi on 11/28/2011 8:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
The average person is not the ones you have to watch out for, the ones you watch out for are the ones who come up with these 200 EUR boards that can do this, they are the ones who are dangerous :P

The average person is NEVER dangerous, cause they are not smart enough to come up with these things, the ones who CAN come up with this stuff and make it easy to use are the ones you look out for.

RE: Waste
By Khato on 11/28/2011 4:33:02 PM , Rating: 4
Eh, I'd tend to say that a content protection scheme holding up for pretty much 12 years is quite impressive. Especially when the 'crack' for it requires a separate hardware device... not to mention a system that supported only the current HDCP specification without legacy support wouldn't be vulnerable.

RE: Waste
By Aloonatic on 11/28/2011 6:00:21 PM , Rating: 2
It depends how you want to look at it.

Seeing as this only really applies to BluRay, and I so few people have BluRay players in their homes still (compared to DVD players, the only people I know with a BluRay player have one with a PS and a 3 on it) then the crack has come before it really gets a foothold in the market place.

RE: Waste
By Fallen Kell on 12/1/2011 3:39:59 PM , Rating: 2
Someone needs to wake up and smell the tech. Anyone who has bought a mid-tier or high end laptop or computer has a bluray drive in it. Hundreds of thousands of bluray roms and burners have been sold by Samsung, LiteOn, Pioneer, Sony, and LG. Does every home have one yet? No, but you can sure bet that when the upgrade their computer they will have one. And then there are the 55 million plus PS3's out there.

RE: Waste
By leexgx on 12/1/2011 9:44:37 PM , Rating: 2
hmm only system i have every seen in the last years is Sony viao laptop (£900+ i guess) with BR in it (they are the only systems i see them in)

the avg customer will most likely not see BR as standard for 3-4 more years in systems, what is an shame really as they can store quite a lot

RE: Waste
By EricMartello on 11/29/2011 6:21:16 AM , Rating: 1
This isn't relevant for bluray discs - they can be copied and decrypted with a free program like imgburn. This HDCP crack is a win for people who want to record stuff from their cable box's HDMI out, or for people who have a TV with HDMI in but no HDCP support.

RE: Waste
By johnbuk on 12/1/2011 12:21:16 PM , Rating: 2
It would be useful for more than just recording from a cable box though. If a mass produced version of a board that could do this was released for an affordable price, I'd buy one just so I didn't have to deal with the HDCP errors that I sometimes get trying to show legit media on my HDTV that does support HDCP- cable PPV is the worst culprit, but I get the same errors occassionally with other cable content too.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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