HDCP Encryption Master Key Leaked, Confirms Intel

The HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection) anti-piracy measure which prevents illegal copying of digital audio-visual content through unauthorised devices has been compromised, its developer Intel has confirmed.

HDCP is a digital content protection technology that controls the flow of high-definition audio and/or video information from source devices such as Blu-ray players and set-top boxes to display screens like HDTVs and monitors through various connection interfaces including HDMI, DVI and DisplayPort. Under the HDCP system, both the source and the target hardware devices need to be verified to be HDCP-compliant (i.e. properly licensed from Intel), before the data is transmitted in an encrypted format (to stop the content from being copied in real-time during transmission).

However, last week a 376-line encryption key was uploaded anonymously on source code hosting and sharing website Pastebin.com with the intriguing title “Is The Leaked HDCP Master Key Real?“. Within hours the information has spread through the internet like wildfire via forums and social networking sites. Intel would later confirm that the published encryption code was indeed the master key for the HDCP protocol, which can be used to generate valid subkeys for various devices.

While launching an investigation into the source of the leak, Intel moved swiftly to reassure licensees (and the movie industry at large) that HDCP remains an effective digital copy protection technology. Tom Waldrop, director of issues and policy communications at Intel, said that even though the HDCP master key is now public, it needs to be incorporated into a silicon chip which is then put into a copying device before any HD content piracy can take place.

In other words, Intel thinks that very few people will go to the length of manufacturing chips and building devices to circumvent HDCP protection. And even if a few rouge firms decide to undertake this project, Mr Waldrop said that Intel would pursue full legal recourse under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).