TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Tech Firms Probe High-Def DVD Hack

Tech Firms Probe High-Def DVD Hack

Gina Keating, Reuters (
Mon, 01 Jan 2007 00:05:10 -0600

By Gina Keating

The companies behind an encryption system for high-definition DVDs are
looking into a hacker's claim that he has cracked the code protecting
the new discs from piracy, a spokesman for one of the companies said
on Thursday.

A hacker known as Muslix64 posted on the Internet details of how he
unlocked the encryption, known as the Advanced Access Content System,
which prevents high-definition discs from illegal copying by
restricting which devices can play them.

The AACS system was developed by companies including Walt Disney Co.,
Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE -
news). to protect high-definition formats, including Toshiba's HD-DVD
and Sony's Blu-ray.

Muslix64 posted a video and decryption codes showing how to copy
several films, including Warner Bros' "Full Metal Jacket" and
Universal Studios' "Van Helsing," on a popular hacker Internet blog
and a video-sharing site.

The hacker also promised to post more source code on January 2 that
will allow users to copy a wider range of titles.

A spokesman for one of the AACS companies, who declined to have the
company identified, said they were aware of it and were looking into
the claims, but would not elaborate.

The vulnerability could pose a threat to movie studios looking for
ways to boost revenue as sales of standard-format DVDs flatten. In
2005, U.S. DVD sales generated some $24 billion for the movie

If the encryption code has been cracked, then any high-definition DVD
released up to now can be illegally copied using the Muslix64 "key,"
according to technology experts.

Jeff Moss, organizer of Defcon, the world's largest hacking
convention, said in an interview that Muslix64 appears to have found a
real breach in the encryption system.

"Everybody is talking like it worked, and apparently it's not that
hard," said Moss, whose annual convention draws thousands of security
researchers, government workers and hackers. "This will be the first
trial run of how this (AACS) is going to work whenever a compromised
player comes out."

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, a UK-based technology expert and author of
Internet blog PC Doctor, wrote in a Thursday posting on technology
site that Muslix64's source code "seems genuine enough."

He said the hack would not necessarily make much of a difference in
the battle for supremacy between the new HD DVD and Blu-ray formats.

"What's interesting here is that while this hack might give HD-DVD a
temporary advantage amongst enthusiasts who want to backup discs
... in the long run it won't give either format an advantage because
both HD-DVD and Blu-ray use the now cracked AACS," he wrote.

Warner Bros. is a unit of media conglomerate Time Warner Inc. and
Universal Studios is part of NBC Universal, controlled by General
Electric Co..

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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