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Security researcher cracks Google’s Widevine DRM (L3 only)

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Image: Widevine team

A British security researcher has cracked the L3 protection level of Google’s Widevine digital rights management (DRM) technology. The hack can allow the researcher to decrypt content transferred via DRM-protected multimedia streams.

While “cracking Google’s DRM” sounds very cool, the hack isn’t likely to fuel a massive piracy wave. The reason is that the hack works only against Widevine L3 streams, and not L2 and L1, which are the ones that carry high-quality audio and video data.

Any user who cracks a Widevine L3 stream would only gain access to grainy low-quality video and lo-fi audio.

Many security and cryptography experts weren’t surprised by the Widevine L3 hack, as the L3 protection level is the lowest one.

Google designed its Widevine DRM technology to work on three data protection levels –L1, L2, and L3– each usable in various scenarios. According to Google’s docs, the differences between the three protection levels is as follows:

  • L1 – all content processing and cryptography operations are handled inside a CPU that supports a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE).
  • L2 – only cryptography operations are handled inside a TEE.
  • L3 – content processing and cryptography operations are (intentionally) handled outside of a TEE, or the device doesn’t support a TEE.

Service providers, such as Hulu or Netflix, usually perform a check of a device to see what Widevine DRM level they support, before sending any actual content.

Because of the varying security levels, which exposes the DRM-encrypted content to attacks, service providers deliver audio and video streams with varying quality levels, with L3 receiving the lowest.

While it was known for a few years that Widevine’s L3 protection level was the weakest, no one until this today found a way to decrypt Widevine L3 encrypted content.

However, today, British security researcher David Buchanan made the first such claim.

“Soooo, after a few evenings of work, I’ve 100% broken Widevine L3 DRM,” Buchanan said on Twitter. “Their Whitebox AES-128 implementation is vulnerable to the well-studied DFA attack, which can be used to recover the original key. Then you can decrypt the MPEG-CENC streams with plain old ffmpeg.”

Albeit Buchanan did not yet release any proof-of-concept code, it wouldn’t help anyone if he did.

In order to get the DRM-encrypted data blob that you want to decrypt, an attacker would still need “the right/permission” to receive the data blob in the first place.

If a Netflix pirate would have this right (being an account holder), then he’d most likely (ab)use it to pirate a higher-quality version of the content, instead of bothering to decrypt low-res video and lo-fi audio.

The only advantage is in regards to automating the pirating process, but as some users have pointed out, this isn’t very appealing in today’s tech scene where almost all devices are capable of playing HD multimedia [1, 2].

For all intents and purposes, Buchanan’s hack is purely an interesting topic of research that has achieved something that many other experts have only speculated until now.

The researcher said he did report the issue to Google. He also said the issue is unfixable, as it’s a design flaw and not a bug or vulnerability.

Google’s Widevine is today’s most popular DRM technology, being used by content providers such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney, HBO, DirectTV, Facebook, Showtime, Jio, Sony and more. Almost all hardware platforms and device makers support it, such as Apple, Samsung, Google, Intel, LG, Roku, Mozilla, and others. If Google decides to update Widevine’s L3 cryptography implementation, patching it would be a considerable and drawn-out effort.

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Work from Home Security

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Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.

Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.

This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.

Key Findings:

  • Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
  • Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
  • Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
  • Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
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Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management

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Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.

A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.

Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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