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Sex, spies and videotape

By PETER WHITE

Published: 30 March, 2012

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There is a big "secret squirrel" encryption scandal this week, in the form of accusations flying around at NDS and News Corp. But we have chosen to cover the not so scandalous emergence of a new force in conditional access systems for TV, in the form of Intertrust's Marlin DRM.

The heart beats faster when newspapers write stories about encryption, and they conjure images of dark occult arts, spies, secrets and misdoings. But it is never as glamorous as sounds and we would suggest that the newspapers this week have got carried away with themselves in accusing NDS of breaking both the law and the encryption system of rivals.

The implication is that NDS, at the behest of its News Corp masters, can break conditional access systems at the drop of a hat, and then arrange for some wannabe hacker to paint the break all over his or her web site, and not get caught. We do not buy this and think NDS is more circumspect. Even if asked to do such a thing, it would find a way to say no to its parent.

However in Intertrust we see a company that has something which appears to be a far better model. It effectively invented much of what underpins modern Digital Rights Management software, and its main rival is Microsoft with its PlayReady DRM, which is based largely on an IPR license it bought from Intertrust some 8 year ago.

After many dark days, including those years when Intertrust was suing Microsoft, the company is finally having its day in the sun. The essential difference between DRM companies and conditional access companies like NDS, is that DRM usually does not require a hardware assist like a smart card, although it can, and it tends to be pre-installed on consumer electronics devices which go to market through retail. They both pass cryptographic keys between devices in a secret format that prevents content from being stolen, but one has to be more robust, in the sense that there is no qualified person installing the device or operating the system updates in DRM.

Intertrust has sells its Marlin DRM and we spoke with Gilles Boccon-Gibod, the SVP, Technology and Chief Architect there at IP&TV World Forum, who tried to talk us through just how the company has attacked the new segment of Smart TVs, and finally achieved almost a stranglehold on protecting content sent over the internet to European TV sets.

Intertrust shows how a security company is best placed outside the control of its customers, as an arms-length, arms dealer for technology, rather than with its interests aligned with a single content grouping, as NDS' interests were in the past with News Corps').

Go to www.rethinkresearch.biz/faultline to order this week's issue as a FREE trial and read the full analysis of what Intertrust has achieved in Europe.

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