Report: Programmer said to break MS e-book code

An anonymous programmer has found a way to decrypt Microsoft Corp. Reader e-books, according to an article on the Web site of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) magazine.

Microsoft Reader was launched in August 2000 and has been downloaded by over a million people, according to Technology Review, the MIT publication. To prevent widespread copying of files, as has happened with MP3 files in the music industry, Microsoft Reader has built-in antipiracy features.

Each e-book comes with one of three levels of copy protection, specified by the publisher. Premium titles come with owner-exclusive protection and are encrypted during download using a unique mathematical key contained in the buyer's Microsoft Reader software. This key is obtained by activation of the software, which requires the reader to register for a Microsoft Passport account. As only two copies of Reader can be activated under one Passport account, the buyer can only read the e-book on two devices.

Users say this stops them from reading the books where and when they choose, and also makes the file vulnerable; hardware upgrades, for example, can invalidate the activation key needed to break the encryption on a file, Technology Review said.

The decryption software works by recovering the encryption keys specific to an activated copy of Reader and to the e-book in question. It then reverses the process of putting the e-book together, separating it into source files such as text and images and putting new, unprotected copies of those files into a folder on the user's computer, Technology Review said.

The programmer, a U.S.-based cryptography expert, said he has no intention of distributing the software, and wrote it purely for his own use. However, his announcement that decryption is possible has brought renewed focus to the debate on digital rights management and the future of e-book technology, the report said.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

The argument is split between those who say such strict rules will prevent e-book technology becoming popular, and those who want to protect the publishing industry from a Napster-style file-sharing scenario.

Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian programmer, is currently facing up to 25 years in prison for writing similar software that strips copy protection from Adobe e-book files.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gillian Law

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?