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Intel HDCP gets cracked

Posted: 01 Dec 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:HDCP  Blu-ray  FPGA 

Intel's widely used copy protection system 'HDCP' (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) has been cracked by researchers from the working group on secure hardware of the Ruhr-University of Bochum in Germany. According to the researchers, "They were able to this with relatively little effort using a so-called 'man-in-the-middle' attack."

The research team will be presenting their results next week at the international security conference ReConFig 2011 in Cancun, Mexico.

HDCP is now found in almost every HDMI or DVI-compliant TV or computer flat screen. It serves to pass digital content from a protected source media, such as a Blu-ray, to the screen via a fully encrypted channel. There have been concerns about the security of the HDCP system for some time.

"In 2010, an HDCP master key, which is intended to form the secret core element of the encryption system, appeared briefly on a website." "In response, the manufacturer Intel announced that HDCP still represented an effective protection component for digital entertainment, as the production of an HDCP-compatible chip using this master key would be highly complex and expensive."

"We developed an independent hardware solution instead, based on a cheap FPGA board," explained Prof Tim Guneysu, who set to work with the final year student Benno Lomb. "We were able to tap the HDCP encrypted data streams, decipher them and send the digital content to an unprotected screen via a corresponding HDMI 1.3-compatible receiver." We used the commercial ATLYS board from the company Digilent with a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA, which has the necessary HDMI interfaces and a serial RS232 port for communication.

"Our intention was to fundamentally investigate the safety of the HDCP system and to financially assess the actual cost for the complete knockout," reported Guneysu.

"The fact that we have achieved our goal in a degree thesis and with material costs of approximately Rs.13,000 (200 Euro) definitely does not speak for the safety of the current HDCP system," he added.

In this experiment, the ATLYS FPGA board serves as a middleman and was able to manipulate the entire communication between the Blu-ray player and the flat screen TV without being detected.

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