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Next-generation DVD encryption system cracked?

A computer hacker known as Muslix64 posted on the Internet details of how he unlocked the Advanced Access Content System, the encryption mechanism that protects content on the next-generation HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The HD-DVD camp may have suffered a setback when the programmer announced in the Internet discussion forum Doom9 on 18 December that he had successfully copied movies distributed in the HD-DVD format. The note directed readers to a site where demonstration software he had written could be downloaded.

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 on YouTube site. The programmer has said that he plans to post more software this week, describing a more complete attack on AACS.

Technical experts who have examined the software posted by Muslix64 said that it was only a partial solution for making copies of the digitally protected material. Because the encryption system has a hierarchy of encryption keys, simply breaking the system for a single movie does not mean that it is possible to copy all movies.

A spokesman for one of the AACS companies contacted by Reuters said they were aware of it and were looking into the claims, but would not elaborate. The AACS system was developed by companies including Walt Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba and Sony to protect high-definition formats, including HD-DVD and Blu-ray. reckons that if Muslix64 is able to create a complete version of a decryption program, or if others extend the software so that consumers without technical expertise can readily make copies of movies, that would create a crisis for the HD-DVD camp.

That system contains a “revocation” mechanism for shutting down HD-DVD players whose encryption system has been compromised. But industry analysts say that taking such a step would give the HD-DVD system a tremendous black eye, angering consumers and shaking the confidence of Hollywood studios in the system.

Other commentators suggest in Internet discussion groups that the cracking of HD-DVD may increase the popularity of the hi-def format among consumers eager to make copies of movies they have purchased.

Story filed 03.01.07

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