HD DVD encryption cracked?

Chicago (IL) - On the heels of the first full year of the HD DVD/Blu-ray battle, a new wrinkle has appeared, as a hacker has claimed to have dug into the high-definition format's encoding and decrypt the security measures that prevent the video from being copied.

The hacker, going by the name muslix64 in an online forum, calls the PC utility BackupHDDVD. He writes, "BackupHDDVD is a tool to decrypt a AACS protected movie that you own, so you can play it back later using an HDDVD player software. This is the first version, and it's not very stable yet."

He has posted bits and pieces of the source code and the actual program in action in a dramatic YouTube video. According to his forum posts, muslix64 used an Xbox 360 HD DVD drive hooked up to his computer to hack in and disable the encryption technology. HD DVD and Blu-ray both use a more sophisticated encryption format known as AACS, which claimed to be much more impenetrable than DVD's Content Scrambling System (CSS).

Muslix64 has made several comments about the ease of decrypting the AACS format. In his BackupHDDVD FAQ, he writes, "The program itself has nothing special. It simply implement the AACS decyption protocol. I have followed the freely available documents about AACS. The trick, is to find what they call the 'Title keys'. So I [figured] out how to extract them."

According to his forum posts, he decided to find a way to decrypt HD DVD after he realized he couldn't play his HD DVD titles on his computer because he did not have an HDCP compliant video card. After a week, he says, he was able to decrypt one movie, and a few days after that fixed several of the preliminary bugs, like frame skipping.

Although it is still unstable and has only been tested with one HD DVD drive and HD DVD disc, it is a potential problem for the format this early on in its lifespan. The first real breakthrough for DVD decryption was not until the end of 1999, a couple years after the first DVD player was available.

With only a select few movie studios pledging exclusivity to either Blu-ray or HD DVD at this point, the loss of secure encryption for the latter could hurt its future negotiations with content providers. Muslix64 said he is not going to work on a Blu-ray version of the Java-based utility because he does not own a Blu-ray drive.

TG Daily has not been able to independently substantiate nor refute muslix64's claims.