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

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    irontedironted Posts: 129member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 51
    modemode Posts: 163member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 51
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 51
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,655member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 51
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 51
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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 isn?t even about seeing if a 3rd-party device works well, it?s that he didn?t 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.
    I?m sure more features will come to AirPlay licensees in the future, and there are services that try to get around it, like Rogue Ameoba?s AirFoil, but it?s simply not part of the spec from 7 years ago.
  • Reply 7 of 51
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,603member
    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?
  • Reply 8 of 51
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    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 ...
  • Reply 9 of 51
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,764member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 51
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    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. WhateverPlay™ on the way.





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



    at 13 secs.
  • Reply 11 of 51
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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 ...



    I?m not against that idea but what common, consumer scenarios where here for streaming AirPlay from 3rd-party devices to your Mac wirelessly?
  • Reply 12 of 51
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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. Wasn?t that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you don?t use a "clean room? for the reverse engineering is then stealing?
  • Reply 13 of 51
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,525member
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 51
    Does this mean ATVFlash could integrate AirPlay into older Apple TVs?
  • Reply 15 of 51
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    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. Wasn?t that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you don?t 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.
  • Reply 16 of 51
    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).
  • Reply 17 of 51
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 51
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,833member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 51
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    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
  • Reply 20 of 51
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,833member
    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. Wasn?t that what Compaq did with BIOS to become the success story they were? If you don?t 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.
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