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Broadcom, ST back crypto expert in piracy


Published: 8 September, 2011


This week intellectual property player Cryptography Research told us blithely that its CryptoFirewall core design has been included on the new generation of set top superchips - 3000 DMIP class chips with more power than a PC - for both Broadcom and ST Micro. If those two take the core, and it's on offer to every other set top chip maker, it won't be long until it's a standard.

The Core can do all the work of a conditional access smart card, but here's the gamble - if a core chip gets compromised you have to throw away the set top, if a smart card gets compromised, you only need a new card. This shows there is an awful lot of confidence that these cores cannot be hacked to make such a move. So is it the end of piracy as we know it? And in fact is this the end of the conditional access lock-in?

There is a good chance that the answer is yes and yes. The current smart cards necessarily plug into the outside of a box and the communication with the cpu is easy to intercept. This core will be right inside the chip, and nothing will come out which are not meant to come out, such as encryption keys.

The major conditional access players will still have an edge and may continue to preach smart cards - but this market will undergo massive economic disruption, and in five or 6 years' time, when all set tops have this type of facility, video piracy could become a thing of the past, especially for HD and 3D content. All DRM players have to begin looking elsewhere for differentiation.

For a full version of this article see or email Peter White for a copy of that issue.

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