Nov 30, 2011
The video encoding technology that is used in protecting Blu-Ray contents from piracy was created by Intel. They call it the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) protocol that encrypts and copy-protect digital contents. Over the years it was used by the entertainment industry to prevent illegal copying of movies and games that will inflict high revenue loss. Back then it was believed that this protocol cannot be cracked by any means. In this post the researchers behind the MITM technique discovered that Blu-Ray video can be extracted using low cost electronics chips and some programming.
A group of researchers discovered a way to circumvent the technology, that certainly proves that Intel’s claim is not true. In September last year the HDCP protocol was broken that allows anyone to decode Blu-Ray contents. On the other hand, Intel claims that to use the ‘software’ a person must build its own computer chip. This response by Intel was to discourage anyone from using the software-hardware combination because building the hardware part is very costly.
Intel’s response seems to become a challenge for anyone to try. And recently a team of researchers at Secure Hardware Group of Germany’s Ruhr University of Bochum (RUB) managed to create a cheap custom board. It only costs around 200+ euros that can decrypt Blu-Ray contents and other HD media. They build the custom board using an inexpensive field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips combined with a serial RS232 port for communication. To evade the copy-protection technology the researchers used man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack coupled with the custom board. What the whole system can do is to control and decrypt the communication between the Blu-Ray player and the HDTV without being detected.
These findings certainly prove that it is now possible for everyone to use the same method to make illegal copies of Blu-ray contents. But according to the researchers their intent was never to teach anyone about Blu-ray piracy because they said that the piracy community was already using much simpler methods. “Rather, our intention was to fundamentally investigate the safety of the HDCP system and to financially assess the actual cost for the complete knockout. The fact that we have achieved our goal in a degree thesis and with material costs of approximately 200 Euro[s] definitely does not speak for the safety of the current HDCP system.” – Tim Güneysu, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at RUB, in a press release.