In what appears to be a recreation of the infamous DeCSS saga that broke DVD encryption and spread it all over the Internet, Sony is looking to keep the recent discovery of its PS3’s master encryption key under wraps, and they’re doing it via the courts. Unfortunately, as with most things on the Internet, the cat is out of the bag…
…there’s no putting it back.
When the CSS keys hit the Internet, companies sued those authors, too. Although they were eventually acquitted, the move spurned enthusiasts, hackers, trolls and Internet freedom fighters everywhere. It soon became standard to post the key in comments, in forums, in videos, on t-shirts and coffee mugs and more.
As you can see from the screenshot above, that trend is already starting with the PS3’s key, which was accidentally retweeted by Sony’s faux spokesman, Kevin Butler. It’s been removed since that shot was captured.
Sony claims that the person responsible for discovering and publishing the exploit, George Hotz, has violated provisions of the DMCA, which forbids, among other things, circumventing digital rights management algorithms on hardware and software.
Less than a week after Hotz’ published information about the keys (acquired via means of a pre-existing security exploit), Sony filed for, and received, a restraining order. As part of the ongoing lawsuit, a US District Court Judge recently gave in to Sony’s demands that all of Hotz’ computers and related equipment be turned over to the company for analysis.
After some thought, the judge relented and limited the search specifically to find information related to the case on the user’s hard drive. She warned Hotz not to delete or destroy any of the information before handing it over.
Implications for the rest of us
While this case obviously concerns a console gaming system, the repercussions it could create should be concerning for any computer user.
Currently, the same means used to circumvent locking mechanisms are allowed on phones, but not systems like the PS3. As companies like Apple and HP, who seem ripe for putting iOS and webOS anywhere they can, put further limits on the access and freedoms customers currently enjoy with their machines, this case suddenly falls much closer to home.
It’s not too far-fetched to imagine a closed-system notebook or all-in-one that runs one of these consumer-focused operating systems getting similarly cracked – only for the cracker to be taken to court for their efforts.
While it looks like it’s too late for Sony to keep this information under wraps (as efforts such as demanding the IPs of users who watched Hotz’ videos on YouTube throw further fuel on the fire), you can bet that copyright lawyers and tech enthusiasts in general will be keeping a close eye on what happens.