HD-DVD copy protection

Apparently the HD-DVD copy protection system has been compromised. Is this really a big surprise? I mean, if you actually go and talk to the engineers who designed AACS, would they think it’s totally unbreakable? Behind all the PR and marketing hacks who don’t know the first thing about cryptography are the people who actually designed this system, and I’m sure they would list a load of standard caveats like “assuming a bounded-complexity adversary” But even then, perhaps twixt design and implementation someone screwed up and weakened the protections.

The whole approach to copy-protecting media via controlling the hardware is a little odd to me. Its like having a secret decoder ring made of a piece of red cellophane. If you make a media format which is useful for carrying data and holding movies, you’re inviting attacks far more complicated than those envisioned by scenarios in which you have an average user buying a player and plugging it into their TV. Is it really that the design specs were for the latter and didn’t even think about what would happen if someone popped the disc into their computer?

Personally, I thnk these guys knew it would happen all along and were surprised at how little time it took. The truth is probably that people in the company who were ignorant of the technology ended up approving something that was a lot weaker than it should have been, and not that the guy who hacked the standard was somehow a super-genius. This is not to take away from his accomplishment, but it seems like you can either build a watertight security system or one that leaks like a sieve, and this is more of the latter.


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