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Re: EFF misstatements in DeCSS brief
By the way, I'd also like to suggest that we shouldn't be too quick
to dismiss the possibility that the CSS was revealed and broken using
a purely cryptanalytic attack. In other words, I'd like to suggest
that the CSS may have been discovered using just black-box access to
the cipher implementation (no disassembly or `reverse engineering').
Looking at the cipher, it appears that it may be possible to discover
much of its structure with many millions bytes of known text. Here's
the mathematical analysis. Get many streams of known text, and derive
the corresponding keystream output for each stream. The internal state
of the cipher is only 40 bits wide, so by the birthday paradox, there
is a good chance of a `collision', i.e., an overlap in some pair of
keystream sequences. This overlap is easily detected if you only think
to look for it, and it tells you a lot about the cipher.
Obviously, obtaining millions of bytes of known text for CSS should be
straightforward, given access to a DVD player (especially one in software).
Without trying it, I can't say for 100% certain that this black-box
attack would work, but now that we know the CSS innards, we can see
that if anyone thought to try this approach, it seems credible that
it could provide enough of a foot in the door to derive the details
of the CSS algorithm [*] through purely mathematical means.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not claiming that the purely mathematical
approach is especially easy, only that it appears as though it might
work. If _I_ were forced to learn the CSS from scratch, I'd probably
break out my disassembler -- I'm lazy! and the math route seems likely
to require more work -- but others might well prefer the black-box approach.
I can also say that there have been rumors for some time that the DVD
crypto had been broken by some sort of cryptanalytic means, apparently
using only black-box access to the algorithms. Of course, one can't
know whether the rumor is true, but now that we know the CSS cipher,
it sounds like a plausible scenario. I wouldn't rule it out...
Admittedly, the EFF brief doesn't actually make the case for this scenario.
(Instead, they just say that it's the plaintiffs' burden to make the
case that this scenario couldn't have happened, and the plaintiffs
haven't shouldered that burden.) Nonetheless, if we are asked to judge
this dispute from a purely technical perspective (forget the legal
arguments for the moment), I think the evidence supports the possibility
that the CSS may have been revealed using no disassembly or reverse
[*] Obviously, this `collision' technique allows you to learn how the
streamcipher output is combined with the plaintext to yield ciphertext.
More subtly, it may also allow the observant cryptanalyst to deduce
the existence of the `carry' bit in the way the two LFSRs' outputs
are combined to yield keystream bytes, i.e., equation (4) of
This insight might spark the hypothesis that the keystream might be
generated as the sum of two LFSRs. If you think to check this
possibility, an obvious approach is to try sliding two keystream
sequences against each other and subtracting; and, if you get the
offset right (prob. 1/2^25, so by the birthday paradox, thousands
of streams should suffice), you'll find a repeating sequence of
period 2^14 in the difference. And, if you manage to get this far,
the rest is child's play: the periodic sequence of 2^14 bytes is
just the entire output of the 17-bit LFSR, so the feedback taps are
immediately revealed, and the rest will just fall out. (There's
also an alternate approach: instead of sliding, subtracting, and
looking for cycles, you can just slide, subtract, and apply
Berlekamp-Massey to a sequence of ~ 34 consecutive difference bits.
This alternative might be faster in practice.)
If you were going to actually do this, there are plenty of false trails
one might get sidetracked on; but it seems clear that there are plenty
of clues here to point your way, and if you don't miss them and work
diligently, you may be able to recover the CSS algorithm without