updated 10:50 am EDT, Tue September 14, 2010
Said to permanently unlock HDCP DRM
News has emerged that the HDCP ‘Master Key’, which permanently unlocks the DRM protocol on Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and displays with HDMI inputs may have been cracked. HDCP DRM works by embedding keys to encrypt and decrypt protected data in the devices and ports, so where content may have been compromised, a future firmware update will stop the compromised data from working. The supposed ‘Master Key’ is said to allow anyone to create their own source and sink key, thereby permanently bypassing the DRM protocol.
While the news is sketchy as to who has broken the code and by what methods, it had been proposed that knowing the keys to as few as 50 different devices could allow a reverse engineering hack to be developed. It's not the type of hack that they typical user would use in the same way people have been ripping DVDs for about the past 10 years, as it requires specialized techniques to flash the firmware of HDCP compliant devices. But for those who are technically competent, it could mean that the current generation of HDCP compliant devices could have their protection rendered ineffective.
If true, the ramifications may be serious for the film industry and other purveyors of HD content such as Apple's iTunes Store as sophisticated pirates begin to duplicate and redistribute HD content illegally. HDCP is built into the HDMI spec and is often included with normal DVI ports and can be used to close the "analog hole" used to capture raw video for piracy purposes. Many new iTunes movies, for example, will refuse to play on a secondary display that doesn't support HDCP. [via Engadget]