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TI DMCA Situation Update
Posted by Michael on 30 October 2009, 03:20 GMT

First, the good news: TI has completely ignored the EFF's letter and the October 26 deadline, so Brandon's post and Duncan's post are back online. This is great news, although arguably the better situation would have been for TI to sue and lose in the court system, where legal precedent would be established.

The bad news: Because it ignored the letter, TI has bizarrely continued to send improper DMCA takedown notices to websites, including a second notice to Duncan for his other webpage also listing the signing keys! The EFF has posted a news update calling out TI for its behavior. Duncan has filed a DMCA Section 512 counternotice in response to this DMCA abuse.

Update (November 4): For those who haven't yet seen, there is now a news story in the IEEE Spectrum magazine, profiling Brandon and the current situation.

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Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
graphmastur Account Info

Oh, the fight continues...

Reply to this comment    30 October 2009, 21:54 GMT


Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
schoolhacker hacker Account Info
(Web Page)

seriously... what the heck is up with these people...

they are sooo stupid that they have to keep going in the dirty way...

seriously...

let us geeks be...

Reply to this comment    31 October 2009, 05:52 GMT

Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Gary Schafer Account Info

FYI, I heard about this on the IEEE Tech Forum. I'm flabbergasted by TI's response. You'd think they would see this as an opportunity for some free advertising.

I. Guess. Not.

I'm not a TI calculator power user (though I have one in the inventory). I prefer my HP50g, but this... this is ridiculous. Please keep us apprised and let outsiders such as myself know if we can help (e-mails, letters, whatever).

Reply to this comment    31 October 2009, 14:37 GMT

Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
graphmastur Account Info

This is one good thing about TI's threats. We get more publicity. Interestingly enough, this reduces sales like the NSpire, which all of TI's money is on, and increases sales of the calculators that have been cracked.

So not only is it bad publicity, but also bad marketing.

Reply to this comment    31 October 2009, 19:47 GMT


Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

> ... this reduces sales like the NSpire, which all of TI's money is on ...

Keep fantasizing.

Reply to this comment    31 October 2009, 23:11 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Brandon Wilson  Account Info
(Web Page)

And how is this a fantasy? As far as graphing calculators are concerned, they're pouring all their money, time, security, and effort into the Nspire series.
If you disagree, I'd like to know why.

Reply to this comment    1 November 2009, 00:23 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
william white  Account Info
(Web Page)

Texas Instruments develops processors. Graphing calculators aren't their bread and butter.

However, it's truly an amazing time to be a coder - seeing them squirm when this community's genius takes those wondrous devices to a whole new dimension, well beyond the company's control.

Long live the TI Community, and keep the code alive!

Reply to this comment    1 November 2009, 00:43 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

If a company has a segment that makes xyz and it makes a profit then what does it matter that it is not their "bread and butter" ?

Reply to this comment    1 November 2009, 02:17 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
_DigiTan  Account Info
(Web Page)

That's the trip-up, nyall. You assumed the calc business is still profitable.

Having met various TI employees and interns throughout college, I can tell you calcs are only around 3% of their bottom line. Now that the economy's taken a dump, the pressure's on the education division keep this product line in the black.

Their latest reaction is baffling at first, but the reasoning is perfectly obvious if you understand who their customers are. Schools, CollegeBoard, ACT, Kaplan Inc, and other institutes have been hostile toward the whole 3rd-party OS issue for years. Now that calcs are a blank slate for anything we can cook up, TI must show their partners they won't take the situation laying down--even if it's a lost cause. Either way, this will be the stall tactic until new deals are made, or some kind anti-hacking revision rolls out. This line of reasoning may sound alien and incomprehensible from a coder's standpoint, but I witness it on a daily basis in the business world.

Reply to this comment    1 November 2009, 21:31 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Brandon Wilson  Account Info
(Web Page)

There is nothing they can do to combat this. The most they could do is start to sign OSes with a different key, and then require that to download one of their OS upgrades, you first have to install one of their certificate/license updates which would embed that key in our certificates.

That's plagued with problems because:
1. Lots of people have screwed up their certificates by now, and by releasing this kind of update, it just plain wouldn't work for some or possibly even brick them. Then they'd have to replace them.
2. Any key they come up with would be cracked in a week by us, so it would be a futile cat-and-mouse game between their releasing new updates and our factoring the keys.

So all they can do is threaten us legally, and with the help of the EFF, even that option is being taken out. So they're just screwed.

Reply to this comment    1 November 2009, 23:05 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Kevin Kofler Account Info
(Web Page)

Aren't the 68k signing keys embedded in the boot code, not in the certificate area like the Z80 ones? If so, it's impossible for them to replace those keys, thanks to their own protection mechanisms.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 00:26 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Benjamin Moody  Account Info

Yes and no. Both Z80 and 68k calcs include the OS validation keys in the boot code. Certificate files, however, also include copies of the same keys. I don't know how it works on the 68ks, but on the Z80s, at least, any keys found in the certificate are used in preference to the built-in keys in the boot code.

In any case, each key is identified by a particular hexadecimal ID (e.g., 0104 is the standard "freeware" app signing key for the 83+/84+.) Every signed OS or app must contain an 801x or 811x field in its header, which specifies the ID of the key used to sign it.

So if TI really wanted to, they could switch to using a different key for new OS versions (presumably requiring users of older calculators to install a certificate upgrade before installing the new OS.) They could also modify new calculators to accept only OSes signed with the newer keys.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 01:26 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
graphmastur Account Info

Yes, although those keys would be cracked within a week as well.

There is no way for TI to defend against this. Case closed.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 01:38 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

What if the next batch of ti84s introduces several hundred new bootloaders, each with a new key or even larger keys.

The last time I updated my calculator's OS, ti-connect did everything for me including downloading the new OS. It wouldn't be that hard for TI to update ti-connect so that it downloads an OS that has been signed for your specific bootloader.

Though this would probably ruin unit to unit updates.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 01:54 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
graphmastur Account Info

They would have to sign two different OS for each calculator. Besides, we could still easily crack any key they put out with boinc.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 02:25 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

What if a new bootloader ups the key size to 1024 bits ?

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 02:51 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
graphmastur Account Info

two weeks, then. You saw the determination of the original hackers. The difference is, that with more publicity, more people will help out. ;-)

If someone makes an installer for it, then people can simply install the file, and help crack the key. It doesn't matter how long it is, we'll crack it eventually. There's nothing TI can do.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 02:55 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

More bits = exponentially harder. Even with more people taking a hand. Its an interesting topic I've spent a few hours reading about. Sometime in 2010 researchers expect to complete factoring a 768 bit number.

Here's one source (Remove spaces)
https://documents.epfl.ch/ users/l/le/lenstra/ public/papers/ecdl2.pdf

quote:
At this point in time a brute-force attack against 1024-bit RSA would require about two years on a few million compute cores with many tens of gigabytes of memory per processor or mainboard.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 06:52 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Lewk Account Info
(Web Page)

As nyall mentioned above, using a 1024 bit key would in fact be safe from us cracking it with BOINC. If you are unfamilar with how binary works, then just realize that every extra bit you throw on doubles the range of numbers you can represent. (2 bits can represent 4 numbers, 3 bits can represent 8 numbers...)

It should also be noted for anyone new for crypto stuff in general, although we have demonstrated that a 512 bit key is terribly unsecure for RSA (a public key crypto algorithm), much smaller keylenghts are still very secure for symetric key algorithms like AES. 256 bits is a perfectly respectible keylength in AEW for example. (symetric key crypto would be useless for this application however).

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 17:20 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Lewk Account Info
(Web Page)

Sorry, somehow forgot to add this:

I think that it is very unlikely that we will ever have to worry about 1024 bit keys on these calulators. Assuming it was even possible, the change would surely be anything but trivial. Legal spamming is far easier for them.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 17:35 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

Actual Arguing:
Um... why shouldn't I assume that they are profitable? Because its a bad economy? Because they've sunk a lot of money into the nspires which aren't selling like hotcakes? I don't really like arguing these things without numbers. Regardless of how bad the economy is kids are still going to school.

Rambling conjecturing:
The 2007 annual report said that their calculator division in both 2006 and 2005 made ~300 million in profit off of ~500 million in revenue. Seems pretty good to me. I would like newer numbers but unfortunately the 2008 annual report now lumps the calculator division under 'other'.

Also those profit margins seem pretty massive to me considering the number of used calculators out there in those years (in 2006 TI sold their 40 millionth graphing calc), so I wonder if people are really buying used? Granted unemployment is now close to 10% which is double the unemployment in 2006, so maybe more people bought used calculators for their kids in 2009. Thats hard to guess without knowing household incomes in these respective years.

TI's 2009 annual report will be interesting. It will also be interesting to see any statistics the government will release when they have everyone's 2009 tax fillings.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 01:32 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
nyall Account Info
(Web Page)

First the original statement to which I was disagreeing in its entirety:

> This is one good thing about TI's threats. We get more publicity. Interestingly enough, this reduces sales like the NSpire, which all of TI's money is on, and increases sales of the calculators that have been cracked.

Calculators are purchased by parents because their kid's teachers tell them to. I really doubt these parents are going onto google and doing enough research to find that there are these other calculators with that could be upgraded with 3rd party OS's. And even if they did there aren't yet any such OS's that have math capabilities that can compete.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 00:32 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Lewk Account Info
(Web Page)

From my experiance, a lot of kids have already been avoiding the nspire because it doesn't have any good games. I really don't think that it's a stretch to say that this publicity will help increase these calculator's desirability. Even if most kids will have no idea what a 3rd party OS even is, seeing news articles about calculator researchers hacking them is sure to excite a few.

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 17:41 GMT


Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Travis Evans  Account Info

If you want to help, you might consider donating to the EFF if you can.

Reply to this comment    1 November 2009, 01:09 GMT


Re: Re: Re: TI DMCA Situation Update
Gary Schafer Account Info

"you might consider donating to the EFF if you can."

Done. And they even accepted Paypal!

Reply to this comment    2 November 2009, 04:42 GMT

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