September 12, 2006 1:12 PM PDT

Sky hit by Windows Media DRM crack

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
British TV network BSkyB has suspended its broadband movie download service, after a Microsoft security patch on Windows Media's digital rights management was cracked.

A notice on the Sky by Broadband service's home page reads: "In order to make an essential update to the Sky by broadband security system, we are sorry that access to all movies and some sports content has been temporarily suspended."

The patch had been rushed out by Microsoft after the appearance of a utility, called "FairUse4WM," designed to circumvent the media player's DRM. As DRM aims to prevent unauthorized copying of content, such circumvention could have jeopardized the business models of several subscription services that rely on the technology.

Days later, the creator of FairUse4WM released a new version that cracked Microsoft's patch. However, while this version allowed individual files to be stripped of DRM, it did not enable people to download and strip subscription services' entire catalogs.

Microsoft's response has been to assure its Windows Media licencees via memo that it has teams "working around the clock" to beat FairUse4WM, according to Engadget, which originally reported the story.

"The issue is a Microsoft issue, obviously. At the end of the day, we're using Windows Media as the application, and therefore we need Microsoft to ensure that the service is secure," a representative for BSkyB said Monday.

"The responsible way is to take it down or suspend it until we've secured the new patch," the representative added. A statement made by BSkyB last week apologized to the service's users for the interruption, but claimed the suspension would "support the continuing development of legal services that will meet customers' needs in the long term."

The debate over DRM technology is becoming increasingly heated, with the Free Software Foundation backing an "Anti-DRM day," scheduled for Oct. 3. Many in the content creation industry argue the technology is necessary to protect intellectual property and stimulate creativity, while some in the opposite camp view it as a cynical attempt by media companies to gain greater control over customers' usage of their products.

"As we did with the initial circumvention, Microsoft will use the built-in renewability features of Windows Media DRM to deploy an update to address this circumvention," Microsoft senior product manager Marcus Matthias said in a statement. "We are working on an update and have alerted our content provider customers. When ready, we will work with our content partners to deploy this solution."

David Meyer reported for ZDNet UK from London. CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report.


Correction: The digital rights management utility FairUse4WM was misidentified in the original version of this story.

See more CNET content tagged:
BSkyB, circumvention, digital-rights management, Windows Media, patch


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Excuse me, but how did you not see this coming?
Since when has a Microsoft security feature of anyting not been hacked; immediately upon release, or after any patch purported to fix any given security vulnerability? Excuse me Mr/Mrs CEO of any company that made the WRONG choice and delivers content based on MS technologies. Your content will be hacked, repeatedly, get over it or deliver content based on non-MS technologies.
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
Reply Link Flag
mr <urdpch's mistake
As a businessman Murdoch is outstanding, however he certainly seems to have been badly informed. To rely on Microsoft to create a world wide standard (DRM) which cannot be hacked seems to me to be unwise to say the least.

It's not entirely Microsoft's fault; there are so many experts in the field (some of them ex microsoft employees no doubt) that to create code that cannot be hacked is probably near to impossible.

Better to rely on either your own security or security provided by a company other than microsoft
Posted by rzw30 (3 comments )
Link Flag
RIP Copyright law
These shortsighted fools are shooting themselves in the foot.

All these draconian(and often conflicting) laws need to stop. DRM is a cancer on the world. It limits freedom for consumers and hurts artists. The ones that the content industry pretends to fight for but are screwing even harder then they are the customers.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fair Use
You are probably right for fair use, but otherwise no.
Posted by Yuhong2 (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thieving Hackers
I say lock them all up and throw away the key!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go toss some digital salad
Which MS bug ran up your pants today?
Posted by Bush.Sux (10 comments )
Link Flag
CNET article is incorrect
The Cnet article states that users don't have access to strip DRM from the catalogs of subscription services. This is incorrect. Subscription services allow the user to download at least half the catalog for free as long as you are signed up ($15/month). The rest of the catalog is pay per song. You can download the subscription songs and strip the DRM. This works for rhapsody, napster, Urge and some movie subscriptions.

Anyhow who cares about Murdock?! The scumbag could stand to lose some money anyhow. It's only hurting him by suspending the service. Apple iTunes has had a DRM ripper for a long time and that hasn't stopped apple and the music studios from making a boatlode of money. Piracy will be negligible with this DRM hack.

Everytime Micro$hite comes out with a patch, it will just be cracked again. MS is a service company and no longer a good programming company. They don't have the resources to fix their mistakes. Just look at IE6; more holes than a New Orleans levy.
Posted by Bush.Sux (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Distributing Cracks IS a FELONY after all.
The intent of the Millennium (yeah ill spell that correctly, someday) Copyright Act is to protect producers of content from hacks such as this.

After the Attorney General finishes up the #1 job (locking up spammers) he (or seh?) should take a look at crackers. I am sure Microsift would love to get a couple convictions under its belt.

Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Link Flag

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