ad info
   personal technology

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards





DVD encryption hacked

November 5, 1999
Web posted at: 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT)

by Mathew Schwartz DVD graphic

(IDG) -- After the motion picture industry spent years negotiating the encryption standard for digital video discs (DVD), a small group of Norwegian hackers recently released a program, called DeCSS, that can break the encryption on almost any DVD disk.

"This is a troubling situation," said Rick Clancy, a spokesman at Sony Corporation of America. He said Sony is still gathering information on the purported hack and added that "Sony is of course a strong advocate of content protection."

Every DVD disk has about 400 keys on it to make the disk readable to all of the various DVD players on the market. The players, in turn, also have the 400 keys licensed and encrypted in their hardware or software playback systems. But apparently one program, the XingDVD Player, from RealNetworks Inc. subsidiary Xing Technologies, didn't have its keys adequatey safeguarded. The hackers were thus able to deduce how to crack DVDs and released the DeCSS program, which will do it automatically.

According to CNN, the group was attempting to reverse-engineer a software DVD player in order to create one compatible with the Linux operating system. There is currently no Linux-compatible player.

DeCSS is reported to be circulating the Internet on Web sites and newsgroups. The program allows users to copy the contents of a DVD onto the user's hard drive.

Officials from RealNetworks weren't available for comment Thursday morning.

The hackers are claiming that the DVDs only have 40-bit encryption. By contrast, Netscape 4.7, the company's most recent U.S. exportable version, has 56-bit encryption. The U.S. exportable version of Internet Explorer 5.0 has 40-bit encryption.

This isn't the first DVD encryption to be broken. DVDs already have regional codes so that they can only be played on players bought in that region. This helps the movie industry distribute DVDs in the same pattern as films: premiere it in one market, then gradually release it in other markets. But movie producers often don't use the codes, and players have sprung up that can play DVDs with any of the various regional codes.

Packard Bell NEC aims new PC at music lovers
October 18, 1999
Apple launches new iMacs and OS
October 6, 1999
Home-theater goes multiplex
September 30, 1999
World Book 2000: Wait for DVD
July 19, 1999
Sony, HP push rewritable DVD
June 2, 1999

Vendors agree on DVD-Audio protection
(PC World Online)
DVD won't dominate until 2001, says researcher
(PC World Online)
Waiting for recordable DVD in 1999
(PC World Online)
Is DVD ready for you?
(PC World Online)
How to install a DVD-ROM in your PC
(PC World Online)
Play DVDs almost anywhere
(PC World Online)
Ricoh plans new CD/DVD combo products
Year 2000 World
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Sony Corp. of America
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.