Hardware “Security” and a DMCA Takedown Notice

tektronix-autoLast week we published a post about how it was discovered through trial and error that Tektronix application modules are designed with laughable security. We’ll get to that part of it in a minute. We received a DMCA Takedown Notice from Tektronix (which you can read after the break) demanding that we remove the post. We have altered the original post, but we believe our coverage of this story is valid and we don’t agree that the post should be completely removed.

First off, Tektronix sells the modules to unlock the features already present on the Oscilloscope in questions. We’re operating on the moral assumption that using these features without paying their asking price is wrong. If you want the features they’ve developed you should pay for them.

The real story here is that Tektronix designed a woefully weak system for unlocking these modules. Learn from this. If you’re ever designing a hardware key, don’t do it like this!

An EEPROM, a connector, and a plain text string of characters which is already published publicly on their website is all that is necessary to unlock these “crippled” features. Let’s just say that again: apparently every hardware key is the same and just uses a plain-text string found on their website which is not encrypted or obfuscated. If you were selling these keys for $2.99 perhaps this would be adequate, but Tek values these modules at $500 apiece.

If you were designing this system wouldn’t it be worth using an encryption key pair based on the serial number or some other piece of unique information? How do you think this should have been done? Leave your comment below.

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HOPE 2008: YouTomb, A free culture hack


YouTomb is a research project designed by the MIT Free Culture group to track video take downs on YouTube. To succeed, the team needed to track every single video on YouTube… which is close to impossible. Instead, they built several “explorer” scripts to track what videos were interesting. One explorer tracks all of YouTube’s lists: recommended, featured, most active, and more. Another explorer picks up every video submitted to YouTube, and a third crawls Technorati.

The explorers just find the videos; a separate group of scanner scripts checks the current status of videos. It checks both the new videos and ones that have been killed to see if they return. YouTomb archives every video it finds. They display the thumbnail of the video under fair use, but they’re still determining whether they can display each video in full.

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