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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.

ATLYS
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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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


"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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