Feeds

Intel backed video encryption standard is ‘fatally flawed’

But DMCA prevents researcher explaining why

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

A well-respected cryptographer claims he has discovered a way to break an Intel-backed format for encoding video transmissions - but is prevented by US law on speaking on the issue.

Niels Ferguson believes he could be prosecuted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) so he has held off publishing his findings which suggest flaws with the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) system.

Even though he lives in Holland, Ferguson fears that in the wake of the prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov that the DMCA threatens freedom of speech throughout the world. Intel has not threatened him in any way but he still fears that the motion picture industry or some other body might still prosecute him.

Ferguson, who travels periodically to the States on business, told The Register that lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation advised him he might still be liable to prosecution even if he published a paper in Holland.

All he is willing (or able) to say is that it would be possible to recover a master key for the encryption scheme in about two weeks.

"An experienced IT person can recover the HDCP master key in about two weeks using four computers and 50 HDCP displays," said Ferguson. "Once you know the master key, you can decrypt any movie, impersonate any HDCP device, and even create new HDCP devices that will work with the 'official' ones."

"This is really, really bad news for a security system," he said.

HDCP encrypts video on the DVI interface, which connects digital video cameras and DVD players with digital TVs and the like, and is designed to prevent illegal copying of video contents by encrypting the signal. It is expected to become widely available in hardware due out in the first quarter of next year but it is still not too late to mitigate problems he has found with HDCP.

Ferguson says the scheme is "fatally flawed" and he is not alone in his criticism. Other security researchers Scott Crosby and Kevin Irwin have gone one step further than Ferguson and published criticisms of the algorithm, and suggested ways to attack HDCP.

Intel has publicly downplayed the significance of the research and said none of the reported ways of breaking the scheme have been successful.

Clearly there's a need for further research. But this, as Ferguson points out, is been stymied by the DMCA. This law undermines the tradition of open analysis of encryption schemes that is needed for security. This story will run and run...®

External links

Censorship in action:
why I don't publish my HDCP results by Niels Ferguson

Video crypto standard cracked?

Related Stories

Sklyarov case shows business outweighs First Amendment
Sklyarov freed on Bail
Adobe DMCA protests spread to UK
Adobe Folds!
eBook security debunker arrested by Feds
DoJ sticks its nose in 2600.com DeCSS appeal
DeCSS arguments invoke free speech

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.