Windows Media DRM Cracked, Again

The cat-and-mouse game continues between Microsoft and a group of hackers intent on breaking the copy protection technology on its Windows Media files. This time, an individual has cracked the latest DRM scheme employed by Microsoft.

The back and forth began last August when a Doom9 forum user by the name of "viodentia" released a program called FairUse4WM. The application was able to strip the copyright protection from both audio and video files, removing restrictions of where and when they could be played. Windows Media files could also then be converted into other formats as well.

Although many downplayed the potential risk of FairUse4WM due to the complexity involved in using the application, it still posed a major problem for Microsoft. Because its primary music offerings are subscription based unlike Apple's iTunes, users could potentially download the entire music libraries offered by Napster or Yahoo and simply remove the DRM that makes the songs expire.

Microsoft jumped into action, issuing a patch for Windows Media and filing a lawsuit last September against ten "John Does," including viodentia. The Redmond company claimed that stolen Microsoft source code was used to make corrections to FairUse4WM, a charge viodentia disputed in public statements.

"FairUse4WM has been my own creation, and has never involved Microsoft source code. I link with Microsoft's static libraries provided with the compiler and various platform SDK files," the individual said.

An update for FairUse4WM was released to once again circumvent Microsoft's latest restrictions, forcing the company to issue a second fix. Such DRM patches are no easy task, as both providers of Windows Media encoded content and customers must download new software.

Although Microsoft was unsuccessful in discovering the identity of viodentia and gave up the lawsuit in April, the company was seemingly able to stop further cracks from emerging. In the meantime, Microsoft launched its Zune portable media player and Zune Marketplace store for downloading music.

But the win didn't last long. On Friday, a user by the name of "Divine Tao" -- an anagram of viodentia -- posted to the Doom9 forums announcing a new tool that uncovers the keys from Microsoft's newest Individualized Blackbox components used in its DRM. Those keys can be then utilized by the existing FairUse4WM release to strip the copy protection from patched versions of Windows Media.

According to responses to the forum post, the latest crack works on Windows Vista and with songs encoded for Microsoft's Zune. Even movie downloads from Vongo can be made DRM-free with the tool, furthering the potential risk to Microsoft and its partners.

"This works fine for me with the very latest version of WMP on both XP and Vista along with both Urge and Ruckus," one user replied.

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