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Private Apple AirPlay key released, could lead to unauthorized third-party uses

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
A developer has cracked Apple's private key for the AirPlay wireless audio streaming protocol, opening the door for computers and other devices to integrate with AirPlay in ways that were not previously possible.

The AirPlay key was reverse-engineered by developer James Laird, who has published the information in an open-source emulator dubbed ShairPort. The tool, first discovered by MacRumors, can allow devices to receive AirPlay streaming content using Apple's native integrated capabilities in iTunes and iOS devices.

Laird took apart an AirPort Express and reverse engineered the AirPlay keys out of the device's read-only memory chip.

Audio streaming is possible through Apple's AirPort Express hardware, as well as the Apple TV. Previously, iTunes could stream to the official Apple AirPort express, and third-party tools like Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil, available for both Mac and Windows, could "hijack" audio and send it to an AirPort Express or Apple TV.

But now, with ShairPort, developers could allow a third-party device to accept a stream directly from iTunes, without the use of a tool like Airfoil. By utilizing the private AirPlay key, third-party software or hardware could be recognized by iTunes or an iOS device for direct streaming, without the need for additional software.

Apple does license its AirPlay standard to certain third-party vendors like Denon, Bowers & Wikins, Marantz, JBL and iHome, who have created devices like portable stereos that can accept an AirPlay stream. But ShairPort could be used to accept and play a wireless stream on a Mac, PC, or other hardware like an Xbox 360 game console.



It's unlikely that the key would be used in any commercially sold hardware, as Apple licenses use of the AirPlay standard for a fee. But the publication of the private key could allow custom hacks and configurations for users to set up at home on a variety of devices.

Last month, a report claimed that Apple is looking into the possibility of licensing AirPlay video streaming for third-party devices like high-definition TVs. Currently, the licensing associated with AirPlay only allows audio to be streamed to third-party devices.

But according to Bloomberg, Apple could open up AirPlay to allow the streaming of movies, TV shows and other video content -- something that is only currently possible with the Apple TV. Licensing the AirPlay video standard would allow users to stream video content from an iOS-powered device like an iPhone or iPad to a TV without the need for a hardware accessory like the Apple TV.
post #2 of 52
This is so cool! It would become a dominant standard, and serves as the launching pad for Apple's Smart TV and TV Thunder platform.
post #3 of 52
The headline should read: AirPlay Becomes Useful, Millions Rejoice!

I bought an AE 7 years ago and still get pissed off at it and Apple when I want to send audio from YouTube. (airfoil has a second or two delay and doesn't sync with the video.)

This has nothing to do with piracy or any nefarious purposes... I just want to listen to audio through a $150 device that I bought for exactly that purpose. This was the first time I noticed I had been incarcerated into Apple's jail for buying their product. I thought for sure at the time that It was a tech limitation and Apple was scrambling to make it functional with all audio from my Mac. Boy, was I wrong.
post #4 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by IronTed View Post

This is so cool! It would become a dominant standard, and serves as the launching pad for Apple's Smart TV and TV Thunder platform.

So felony crimes are now cool?

What he did is probably illegal (DMCA).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mode View Post

The headline should read: AirPlay Becomes Useful, Millions Rejoice!

I bought an AE 7 years ago and still get pissed off at it and Apple when I want to send audio from YouTube. (airfoil has a second or two delay and doesn't sync with the video.)

This has nothing to do with piracy or any nefarious purposes... I just want to listen to audio through a $150 device that I bought for exactly that purpose. This was the first time I noticed I had been incarcerated into Apple's jail for buying their product. I thought for sure at the time that It was a tech limitation and Apple was scrambling to make it functional with all audio from my Mac. Boy, was I wrong.

So it's Apple's fault that you didn't bother to see if your device would work?

What this guy just did was deprive Apple of potentially millions of dollars in revenue. If you don't like Apple's ecosystem, no one's making you buy it, but enabling other vendors to make their systems work with Airplay is a violation of Apple's intellectual property rights.

If you don't like it - you're free to create your own system.
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post #5 of 52
This has lawsuit written all over it.

It's one thing to crack the password for your own personal use, but the moment you plaster it all over the Internet for everyone to use, you just crossed the line. This is ignorance to the max.

Airplay is slowly making headway into other consumer electronics (like Pioneer) but for tightwads like this guy to take proprietary IP and ignorantly preach the high-road is going to become roadkill.
post #6 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

So felony crimes are now cool?

What he did is probably illegal (DMCA).

Relax.

This may be a shock to you, but US law does not apply - well outside the US.

There is no word in the article where this guy is based.
post #7 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

So it's Apple's fault that you didn't bother to see if your device would work?

What this guy just did was deprive Apple of potentially millions of dollars in revenue. If you don't like Apple's ecosystem, no one's making you buy it, but enabling other vendors to make their systems work with Airplay is a violation of Apple's intellectual property rights.

If you don't like it - you're free to create your own system.

This problem isnt even about seeing if a 3rd-party device works well, its that he didnt understand what AirPlay does when he decided to incorporate it.

Apple clearly states AirPlay (formerly AirTunes) is for streaming music to its licensees. There were no provisions for streaming video or syncing video with its coupled audio track until iOS v4.2 and I think that is only from iOS-based iDevices to the AppleTV.
http://www.apple.com/itunes/airplay/ Im sure more features will come to AirPlay licensees in the future, and there are services that try to get around it, like Rogue Ameobas AirFoil, but its simply not part of the spec from 7 years ago.
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post #8 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

What this guy just did was deprive Apple of potentially millions of dollars in revenue.

Really? I am surprised if money is the only reason Apple did not make this openly available. I don't have great knowledge in this area so I am just speculating, but wouldn't Apple stand to gain more from sales of its hardware by letting third parties create an ecosystem unencumbered by licensing?
post #9 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mode View Post

The headline should read: AirPlay Becomes Useful, Millions Rejoice!

yep! maybe now i'll be able to [reliably] stream content to my mac? can't figure for the life of me why apple hasn't already built in that functionality ...
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post #10 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Really? I am surprised if money is the only reason Apple did not make this openly available. I don't have great knowledge in this area so I am just speculating, but wouldn't Apple stand to gain more from sales of its hardware by letting third parties create an ecosystem unencumbered by licensing?

That would be considered an "open" standard. Apple generally doesn't consider that to be the best use of corporate assets, tho there's been very rare exceptions in the past. I don't think you'll ever see that while Mr. Jobs is in control.
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post #11 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Really? I am surprised if money is the only reason Apple did not make this openly available. I don't have great knowledge in this area so I am just speculating, but wouldn't Apple stand to gain more from sales of its hardware by letting third parties create an ecosystem unencumbered by licensing?

I suspect Google, HTC, Samsung, Sony and a few others have already reverse engineered AirPlay as well. There is already an HTC television commercial demonstrating it in action. They are just working to figure out how to legally get around the Apple patents. WhateverPlayâ„¢ on the way.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md52PdldJ1U

at 13 secs.

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post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pooch View Post

yep! maybe now i'll be able to [reliably] stream content to my mac? can't figure for the life of me why apple hasn't already built in that functionality ...

Im not against that idea but what common, consumer scenarios where here for streaming AirPlay from 3rd-party devices to your Mac wirelessly?
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post #13 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I suspect Google, HTC, Samsung, Sony and a few others have already reverse engineered AirPlay as well. There is already an HTC television commercial demonstrating it in action. They are just working to figure out how to legally get around the Apple patents. WhateverPlay on the way.

Jon Lech Johansen (aka: DVD Jon) "had reverse engineered FairPlay and written VLC's FairPlay support. It has been available in VideoLAN CVS since January 2004, but the first release to include FairPlay support is VLC 0.7.1 (released March 2, 2004), according to Wikipedia.

I thought reverse-engineering was legal. Wasnt that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you dont use a "clean room for the reverse engineering is then stealing?
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post #14 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas71 View Post

Relax.

This may be a shock to you, but US law does not apply - well outside the US.

There is no word in the article where this guy is based.

But misuse of intellectual property is covered in World Trade Organization agreements, so merely being outside the US won't necessarily protect
this guy.
post #15 of 52
Does this mean ATVFlash could integrate AirPlay into older Apple TVs?
post #16 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Jon Lech Johansen (aka: DVD Jon) "had reverse engineered FairPlay and written VLC's FairPlay support. It has been available in VideoLAN CVS since January 2004, but the first release to include FairPlay support is VLC 0.7.1 (released March 2, 2004), according to Wikipedia.

I thought reverse-engineering was legal. Wasnt that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you dont use a "clean room for the reverse engineering is then stealing?

That was before DMCA.

There is also a difference between what Compaq did and what this guy did.
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post #17 of 52
Let's put it this way: AirPlay is not really anything groundbreaking that nobody else can create without Apple's technology. Other companies will create other standards to serve similar purposes anyway. In the end, whether you can mod this or not shouldn't be a big deal, and if these big companies can somehow grow-up (which I doubt) they'd just form a group and have a common standard to do such thing (without necessarily being an open standard, just a standard that the group would use together).
post #18 of 52
I think legally there is a difference between just revenging something and cracking someone's encryption key. And even if US legislation doesn't apply in other countries, they still make treaties with other countries, and part of the treaty is to pass similar leg in their own countries. Depending on where he is, Apple could do this guy.
post #19 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas71 View Post

Relax.

This may be a shock to you, but US law does not apply - well outside the US.

There is no word in the article where this guy is based.

This is no different than some guy breaking into your house and stealing your car keys. There is nothing right about that anywhere in the world I know of.
post #20 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

That was before DMCA.

There is also a difference between what Compaq did and what this guy did.


Problem: Compaq couldn't just copy IBM's BIOS to make their new machine guaranteed IBM compatible, this would be illegal, and easily proven by IBM.

Solution: Reverse-engineer IBM's BIOS. Compaq used two sets of programmers - one group analyzed the original code and made notes of exactly how it responded.

The second group took these notes, and wrote their own BIOS that performed exactly the same.

After one year and a million dollars, they were successfull. They had a legal BIOS identical in operation to that of the IBM computer.



My sister actually owned one of these. I played around with it in 1983

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post #21 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Jon Lech Johansen (aka: DVD Jon) "had reverse engineered FairPlay and written VLC's FairPlay support. It has been available in VideoLAN CVS since January 2004, but the first release to include FairPlay support is VLC 0.7.1 (released March 2, 2004), according to Wikipedia.

I thought reverse-engineering was legal. Wasnt that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you dont use a "clean room for the reverse engineering is then stealing?

Everything I've seen indicates he got into the EPROM and removed the key. This is not what reverse engineering is. Reverse engineering implies creating your own solution that works in a compatible way with the original. Many of the original BIOSes where done this way with engineers working without contact to the original hardware and firmware.

Here we have an entirely different situation where the individual got direct access to the hardware and software. Honestly this guy could go to jail for years.
post #22 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Here we have an entirely different situation where the individual got direct access to the hardware and software. Honestly this guy could go to jail for years.

But it's open source so it's okay


Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The AirPlay key was reverse-engineered by developer James Laird, who has published the information in an open-source emulator dubbed ShairPort.

Found his email in the source code:
jhl@mafipulation.org

If you whois the domain he is apparently in Austrailia

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post #23 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

So it's Apple's fault that you didn't bother to see if your device would work?

What this guy just did was deprive Apple of potentially millions of dollars in revenue. If you don't like Apple's ecosystem, no one's making you buy it, but enabling other vendors to make their systems work with Airplay is a violation of Apple's intellectual property rights.

If you don't like it - you're free to create your own system.

...

I find your reading comprehension skills to be lacking.
I clearly explained in plain english that I thought it was a "technical limitation" that Apple would be scrambling to fix.
I thought Apple would want to sell millions of these things. After 7 years, I still don't think they have sold millions. Simply put - They locked it down and it flopped. Probably why nobody bothered hacking it sooner.

Now that it's been re-branded as Airplay for iDevices, it's worth removing the built-in nerfs and restrictions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

If you don't like it - you're free to create your own system.

Well... uuuh... that's exactly what people are doing... this hack will allow me to create my own system. I already bought the hardware from Apple, they got their money - now I want to make that hardware actually work for my system. What's the problem?
It's not like I'm going to be manufacturing or selling anything that takes money out of Apple's pocket or stealing anything... I'm modifying MY hardware. (pretty sure someone will release some firmware to fix the AE).

Apple doesn't sue people who drop, paint, blend, smash, make love to? - their products in the privacy of their own homes... so what business is it of Apple's if I modify MY device so that I can listen to YouTube audio on my stereo in my own home?

Or are you saying that Apple has the right to send out goon squads to make sure people are using the hardware they manufacture properly?
Give your head a shake man.
post #24 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas71 View Post

Relax.

This may be a shock to you, but US law does not apply - well outside the US.

There is no word in the article where this guy is based.

I read the article and thought, damn good job he probably doesn't live in USA. If I were to guess on country based upon his name, I'd say Scotland. And we thankfully don't have a DMCA :-)
post #25 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

But misuse of intellectual property is covered in World Trade Organization agreements, so merely being outside the US won't necessarily protect
this guy.

Yes, but what is considered misuse and what is considered fair use is interpreted differently from country to country.

Most countries give consumers far more rights than the US does.
post #26 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

If you don't like it - you're free to create your own system.

Ah, your old reliable put downs.

Why don't you wheel out "you obviously have no experience running a business" again?
post #27 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mode View Post

Or are you saying that Apple has the right to send out goon squads to make sure people are using the hardware they manufacture properly?
Give your head a shake man.

THIS!

It's amazing how many Apple shareholders are cluttering up this forum with mindless drivel about how they're willing to sell out to the man and enslave themselves forever to the whims of Steve Jobs just because they bought a hardware device made by Apple.

Fortunately the old hacker culture is still alive and kicking as evidenced by Mr. Laird. My hat is off to you for enhancing the consumer's options and preserving his freedom of choice!
post #28 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Jon Lech Johansen (aka: DVD Jon) "had reverse engineered FairPlay and written VLC's FairPlay support. It has been available in VideoLAN CVS since January 2004, but the first release to include FairPlay support is VLC 0.7.1 (released March 2, 2004), according to Wikipedia.

I thought reverse-engineering was legal. Wasnt that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you dont use a "clean room for the reverse engineering is then stealing?

That would be "Phoenix Technologies".

Cheers
post #29 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mode View Post

:Well... uuuh... that's exactly what people are doing... this hack will allow me to create my own system.

How does stealing someone else's intellectual property constitute creating their own system?

Quote:
Originally Posted by habermas View Post

THIS!

It's amazing how many Apple shareholders are cluttering up this forum with mindless drivel about how they're willing to sell out to the man and enslave themselves forever to the whims of Steve Jobs just because they bought a hardware device made by Apple.

You mis-spelled "Apple fans are willing to pay for innovative products and object to people stealing technology that doesn't belong to them".

Quote:
Originally Posted by habermas View Post

Fortunately the old hacker culture is still alive and kicking as evidenced by Mr. Laird. My hat is off to you for enhancing the consumer's options and preserving his freedom of choice!

He's a common criminal.
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post #30 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by habermas View Post

THIS!

It's amazing how many Apple shareholders are cluttering up this forum with mindless drivel about how they're willing to sell out to the man and enslave themselves forever to the whims of Steve Jobs just because they bought a hardware device made by Apple.

Fortunately the old hacker culture is still alive and kicking as evidenced by Mr. Laird. My hat is off to you for enhancing the consumer's options and preserving his freedom of choice!

It is Apple's own fault really. Normally you are supposed to keep your private key in your own possession so that no one else can impersonate you to authenticate/encrypt data. They should have kept it on the server and made the authentication over the internet, but that would have been too slow so they tried to pull a sneaky and hide it in the ROM. They might as well have printed it on the outside of the box.

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post #31 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulMJohnson View Post

Yes, but what is considered misuse and what is considered fair use is interpreted differently from country to country.

Most countries give consumers far more rights than the US does.

That may be true. From what I have observed, the amount of protection countries give to intellectual property is roughly proportional to the amount of intellectual property created
in that country. In other words, countries which allow stealing of IP are not creating much
IP themselves. And, as a corollary, if countries which do not protect IP originating outside
their borders ever do invent anything worth stealing, they should not complain if it is stolen.
post #32 of 52
that some folks are missing.

It's one thing to hack a product that you bought, if the hacked device is only for personal use. It's legally your property.

It's quite another to distribute proprietary information or trade secrets to the open market so that other people can hack their devices. No one can legally sell any products that rely on stolen proprietary information of a competitor. This sort of thing only gives rise to illegitimate enterprise and the market, trade regulations, and wait for it... TORT LAW, really frown on this kind of crap.

Expect Apple to seek an injunction preventing this idiot from sharing his information, an injunction against anyone who tries to use it, and damages for lost revenue and probably costs associated with repairing the damage to their intellectual property.
post #33 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by acrobratt View Post

that some folks are missing.

It's one thing to hack a product that you bought, if the hacked device is only for personal use. It's legally your property.

It's quite another to distribute proprietary information or trade secrets to the open market so that other people can hack their devices. No one can legally sell any products that rely on stolen proprietary information of a competitor. This sort of thing only gives rise to illegitimate enterprise and the market, trade regulations, and wait for it... TORT LAW, really frown on this kind of crap.

Expect Apple to seek an injunction preventing this idiot from sharing his information, an injunction against anyone who tries to use it, and damages for lost revenue and probably costs associated with repairing the damage to their intellectual property.

It isn't intellectual property, it is a PGP key. The rest of the code was quite trivial to rewrite from scratch but the key was essential for the iPad/iPhone to communicate with aTV. The iPhone has the public key inside the application and it can encrypt data that only someone/device with the matching private key can decrypt. When the private key detects the message from the public key it sends the signal to invoke the AirPlay icon on the menu bar and add itself to the list of devices able to communicate that protocol.

If Apple had followed proper protocol, they would have made the authentication over the Internet instead of putting the key inside the device. The only problem was that unless you were connected to the Internet, AirPlay would not work and would react quite a bit slower.

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post #34 of 52
MStone: Thanks for the viewpoint and explanation. Short and to the point, as well as easy to understand even by a neophyte such as myself.
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post #35 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

MStone: Thanks for the viewpoint and explanation. Short and to the point, as well as easy to understand even by a neophyte such as myself.

I think they can fix it with software update for iPhone and aTV, and flash the rom on aTV, so this exploit it is of limited usefulness to the hackers. It will be inconvenient to have to upgrade both devices at the same time but other than that no biggie. More cat and mouse.

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post #36 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

How does stealing someone else's intellectual property constitute creating their own system?

An understanding of internation IP protection and reverse engineering would help you formulate replies
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post #37 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

It isn't intellectual property, it is a PGP key. .

OK, then you won't mind if someone steals your credit card numbers or the passwords to your accounts. After all, those are just numbers.
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post #38 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

OK, then you won't mind if someone steals your credit card numbers or the passwords to your accounts. After all, those are just numbers.

Well if I hid my credit card under a rock next to my front door, would I be shocked to learn that someone discovered it there?

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post #39 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Well if I hid my credit card under a rock next to my front door, would I be shocked to learn that someone discovered it there?

No - of course you wouldn't be shocked at all. However, it would still be theft if having discovered it they then used it.

This case doesn't seem quite so clear cut though. Breaking encryption schemes to acquire material in a form other than that in which it was purchased is often regarded as theft. Decrypting an audio stream of material that you already own or have access to might be argued as legitimate though. Presumably Apple would have to demonstrate some kind of loss to pursue this, and the only one that I can think of is possibly a reduced sale of Airport Express units. That seems a little tenuous, but maybe it is good enough. Am I missing a bigger picture here?
post #40 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Well if I hid my credit card under a rock next to my front door, would I be shocked to learn that someone discovered it there?

Thanks for the explanation above. That was actually really helpful.

I'll respond to your metaphor with another metaphor.

A person with a cheap lock on their front door is entitled to the same legal protections from robbers as a person with with a padlock and dead bolt.

If Apple didn't disclose this information and if it made the functionality of their devices unique in any way, then to retrieve the information and share it with the open market is some kind of legal injury to Apple.

I hope Apple makes the guy suffer, I own Apple stock. : )
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