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Forbidden numbers

June 6, 2007

I’m kind of late on this one, but I suspect that there are those who are not obsessed with these matters like I am (so, this may be news to some).  A while back Digg.com had a very interesting thing happen to them which signals a number of things … I think.  Not long ago, an enterprising hacker with too much spare time  managed to find the key that allows one to decript a hi definition DVD.  The key was located on a hi-def DVD (of course, where else would it be?).  Someone spent a lot of time looking at the reams of information on a DVD and found the pattern that looked like a key and, lo and behold, it worked.  Someone then posted this key to digg, and lots of people saw it.  It’s rather boring … a long hexidecimal thing that’s not even worth more than a glance.  However, the posting of this string of numbers and letters lead to a rather rapid cease and desist, and the digg guys pulled down the message.  Now, digg hardly ever does things like this … they might pull down obscenity or something truly nasty, but the guys who run digg are generally known for being somewhat, uh, rebellious. So, this actio resulted ina firestorm on digg, and much re-posting of this number on digg and everywhere else … etc.

What’s interesting to me is that it became illegal to post a string of characters.  i suppose that there are many strings of characters that your aren’t supposed to reproduce (you might be a little upset if someone posted your home phone number, for example), but to have it made so clear that this particular string of characters is forbidden was a bit much for a lot of people.  It now appears on many thousands of sites.  I suppose that another aspect of this that is interesting is that this key is not really all that useful. One could use it, but in the hands of almost anyone, it is useless (I would have no idea how to take this string and decode a DVD).  Now that it has been put out there for all to see AND every hacker has been told that it is illegal to possess it, you can be sure that these people are madly making the number useful. The funny part is that the DVD industry was determined to finally make a format that is not hackable, and it lasted a month … the part that is even funnier, is that the same industry moved to improve the system immediately, and the new version was cracked before it was even released commercially.

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