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Gefen closes HDMI loophole on its HD video recorder

Gefen will begin encrypting the video on the hard drive of its HD video recorder, closing a loophole for potential pirates.

Gefen HD PVR rear panel
Gefen's HD video recorder still has HDMI inputs, but the recordings will now be encrypted. Gefen

Gefen is adding hard-drive encryption to its High-Definition Personal Video Recorder to ensure that it won't become an easy avenue for video piracy. Doing so will bring the product into line with other commercially available set-top recorders and DVRs, all of which encrypt video recordings to ensure they won't be played back outside of the device.

The addition of encryption follows a dialogue with CNET that was initiated after the Gefen HD PVR was highlighted on Zatznotfunny. Blogger Dave Zatz noted that the Gefen was a unique product: not only did it have HDMI inputs--a usually unseen rarity--its recordings were completely unencrypted. That meant that enterprising techies such as Zatz (and fellow enthusiast "AVeNVy") who were willing to crack open the Gefen and yank out the hard drive were able to view high-def recordings from their cable box as standard (albeit undoubtedly massive) H.264 video files when they connected the drive to a PC. Such unencrypted/non-DRM video files are the holy grail of video pirates, who could take those files and put them on file-sharing networks. Imagine, for instance, a whole month of high-def HBO movies as Pirate Bay torrents, and it's easy to see why Hollywood studios tend to demand tough encryption standards from hardware manufacturers.

When contacted for comment last week, Gefen specified that the device was "preserving HDCP [High-Definition Copy Protection] on output." But a subsequent communication from the company's representative has since clarified the issue:

Gefen did not anticipate that users would void warranty to crack the unit and use the internal drive in this fashion. The company is currently in the process of encrypting every internal drive of every HD PVR so this situation will be corrected.

The product is brand new, so it's unclear how many of the pre-encryption models are already in the wild. But if you see one of them on eBay going for more than the $1,000 list price, you'll know why.