Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Just another DRM failure

The HDCP master key has been leaked, which means anything that used to be "protected" by this pseudo-secret is now very vulnerable to attack, including Blu-Ray discs and HDMI cable connections. The point is this: the movie studios crammed HDCP down the collective throats of the electronics industry as yet another form of built-in failure, and now their critical secrets are out in the open and the whole scheme will come crashing down.

Did anyone predict this? Yes, in fact. Just about everyone, including security professionals, DRM nay-sayers and, I dare say, many people inside the MPAA itself. Next, will it matter if they were proven right and the DRM-happy higher-ups were dead wrong? You can pretty much bet on "no".

What will happen next? First, a mad scramble to try and suppress the secret key, which won't work. Next, investigations into key revocation, which won't work. Finally, someone will suggest generating a new key, essentially invalidating the old one and making all previously-sold equipment into incompatible paperweights. This might actually be the preferred approach, which will mean we'll start getting "Blu-Ray 2.0", and have to buy new TVs, new set-top boxes and new cables all over again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - According to Hollywood, this will be known as "the price of piracy".
PPS - The rest of us will call it "highway robbery".


Erin Marie said...

Piracy IS a problem though.

What would be your solution?

John said...

Piracy is a problem, and it's bigger than I can cover in a comment. DRM is also a problem, and not a solution to piracy.

In a digital age where the Internet works by copying bits to and fro indiscriminately, there is going to be copying. The new business models that succeed will be those that harness copying as advertising. This won't work for all industries, but with books, for example, Cory Doctorow makes a good living giving away e-books as advertising for the printed copies.