Hacker allegedly breaks high-def disc encryption

Will Sony now use its BD Plus protection to stop illegal copying?

A hacker has reportedly broken through the keys used to unlock digital rights management (DRM) for all Blu-ray and HD-DVD movies so that they can be copied to hard drives.

DVD backup forum Doom9  posted a blog stating that  a hacker called "arnezami" found the processing key used to decrypt the DRM on all high-definition films.

“That’s pretty significant,“ said Jeff Moss, organizer of DefCon, the world's largest hacking convention, which draws thousands of security researchers, government workers and hackers. "Now you can purchase the [DVD] content, store it, organize it, and arrange it anyway you want" on a hard drive.

In December, companies behind a copyright protection system for high-definition DVDs reported they were investigating a hacker's claim that he had cracked the code protecting the new discs from piracy (see "High-def DVD copyright security allegedly hacked "). The  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.

Muslix64's BackupHDDVD software did not crack AACS, but it will make it easier for some technically adept users to decrypt movies (see "Researchers: Hack will help kill HD-DVD copy protection ").

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

Calls to Sony and Microsoft had not been returned by the time of this story’s posting.

While there are no automated tools to perform high-definition DVD backups, Moss believes someone over the next few months "will create a nice graphical tool -- if the hack is for real – that will allow you to back up your HD-DVD just like you back up your DVDs."

"It might actually help create a whole new group of products for people to help manage their own media. So I'm not shedding a whole lot of tears over it," Moss said.

Sony now has the option of activating an additional level of DRM protection called BD Plus, a proprietary code aimed only at Blu-ray Disc formats. The question then would become whether HD DVD would have an advantage because it could be backed up to a home entertainment system.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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