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Saturday, 11 November, 2000, 08:05 GMT
Pop goes protecting pop
Britney Spears PA
Who will protect Britney on the internet?
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The music industry has confirmed that some of the technologies they were backing to protect music on the internet have been cracked open.

The initial results from a hacking competition to determine how secure the music protection systems were have just been released, and they reveal that two out of six protection technologies crumbled when attacked.

The body developing the protection system said the other anti-piracy technologies withstood the assault and could be used to secure music files placed on the web.

But some experts disputed the claims saying the hacking contest was not run fairly and proved nothing about the integrity of the proposed technologies.

Cracking competition

In a bid to find and develop technologies that can protect music files placed on the net, the recording industry set up a group called the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI).

For the last two years, the SDMI has been working on a batch of technologies it hopes can be used to produce pirate-proof pop. The early protection systems developed by the organisation were criticised for being cumbersome and hard to use.

In late-September, in an attempt to produce something more useable and garner more support, the SDMI announced it was letting computer experts try to break the next generation of technologies it was developing.

It put forward files protected by six different systems, some of which involved embedding watermarks in the music while others used a secure wrapper to protect the files.

The SDMI offered a reward of $10,000 for every successful crack of the technologies. In all, there were 447 attempts to break through the SDMI protections.

Reports rubbished

Early reports suggested that none of the technologies backed by the SDMI had survived attacks. The SDMI shot down these claims and said it would take time to evaluate the attacks to see which were successful.

Now the SDMI has said that only two out of the six technologies it put up for attack were successfully compromised. It added that only one of the attacks could be considered a real success because it was repeatable.

The SDMI is now evaluating the surviving technologies to see which one can be used on the net.

But some are now questioning just what the SDMI results prove.

A group from Princeton, which took part in the SDMI challenge, said it had yet to send in a detailed account of how it had attacked the protection systems, which might lead the SDMI to revise its decisions.

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