Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hacking DRM Is Real

When is a DRM secure and unhackable? When can anyone say that a device is unbreakable? History is littered with stories of people who broke the code, un encrypted it and ulocked the secured.

This week we read of hackers in Isreal who claim to have broken the protection built in to Amazon's Kindle for PC. They did it not to access or share the files but as part of a competition and challenge. We can all buy ‘broken’ iPhones and services to unlock mobiles. We remember well the instructions on how to break Adobe’s ACS4 DRM that were openly available to those who were prepared to search for them. Apple iTunes DRM restrictions were openly broken it effectively forced them to think again and drop them.

A hacker blog posts include hacks for: Adobe ADEPT DRM for PDF, Adobe ADEPT for epub, Barnes & Noble’s own-flavour DRM for epub, and Amazon Kindle’s DRM, plus revision for how to crack the ensuing Mobipocket file and transformation into epub.

The Kindle for PC uses a separate session key to encrypt and decrypt each book. However once the hack software is installed, proprietary Amazon ebooks can be converted into the open Mobi format which are fully open and available to copy, transfer and enjoy for free. The code is downloadable and ironically called ‘unswindle V5-rci’ and is used in conjunction ‘darkreverser's mobidedrm’. It appears that unswindle’s creator is determined ti update and fight Amazon blow by blow into the future.

So as we move forward we have to look both at soft and hard DRM options. The hard DRM is down to players such as Adobe and may only be applied to highly commercial files, whilst soft DRM is applied to the others. Soft DRM on epub is harder as these files are mere containers and watermarks can be removed with ease. So as we look soft DRM watermarks we have us use both visible and invisible watermarks that are unique to the rendition, dynamically allocated and are based on an algorithm that will be hard to break. But we must realise that all codes can be broken.


EnricoPoli said...

In my experience, publishers understand Drm can and will be hacked (for sure, they understand after you’ve shown them how to use some of the scripts you’ve linked).

The first reaction usually is: «ok,that only goes to demonstrate the e-book model is broken. Let’s pretend we go on with it while it just dies its natural death» (which I think it’s definitely not the right attitude, but well...).

In any case, they *still* demand hard Drm because they feel that if someone breaks it, this makes the violation an act of conscious infringement. Nobody can say: «yup, I’ve printed and sold your textbooks but I didn’t know you did’t want me to do it» or something like that, after going to the trouble of running those scripts. The lock is breakable, but if you break it your a burglar (or you are the owner of the lock who’ve lost her keys, but that’s another story). I think this argument does make some sense and that soft Drm doesn’t address this need (of making trespassing clear) just as well.

On a technical aside: the script cracking Adobe Digital Editions for pdf files still fail for recent pdf with a sufficiently complicated structure: this is not a decryption problem, it's just that the developer doesn’t know enough about what makes a pdf valid. So if there’s a pdf expert reading this wishing to collaborate fixing the crack, please find the relevant thread on mobile read and do it. This will make easier for us winning the anti-hard-Drm argument :-)

Sorry for my unsteady english, thanks for your blog, bye, Enrico

StephenH said...

The important lesson is that DRM can be hacked! The next important lesson is that it does not take long for hobbyist programmers, non-corporate developers, researchers and others outside the corporate world to get access to a DRM scheme and crack it. Many of these developers do not sign the same intelectual property ownership and confidentiality contracts corporate developers sign. As such, they own their hack code. Next of all, some of them work outside DMCA countries, and there are many of them inside countries with weaker copyright laws (such as Antigua, Israel, Estonia, and others).

Even if these hackers cannot afford to defend a big copyright lawsuit, they have very powerful weapons against the DRM companies lawsuits that render the lawsuits useless, such as:

1) Widespread press and blog coverage: This encourages people to download the DRM crack tool. Getting every copy off of the net or local hard drives will be impossible. This was a success with DeCSS, iJailBreak, and the HD-DVD / BluRay master keys.

2) Use of open source code. This means that anyone can pick up future development of the crack tool. Also, it means that once the source code is downloaded they can compile it and have a useful client.

3) Keeping developers names anonymous. This means that the corporate laywers don't know who to sue.

As one professor of computer science told me that encryption was never designed for preventing copying. The important lesson from these DRM cracks is that the publishers should not assume that everything will remain secure forever and that non-DRMed versions are more valuable.

zalun said...

I need this for a different reason - I want to read books sold as epub on my Kindle. How come it's illegal?

Copy Protect PDF said...

Hi friends,

DRM as applied to e-book is generally a code that must be present in order for the reader to be able to open an e-book. The code may be locked to a particular device, or may be locked to a range of multiple devices. Thanks...