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Standards group says music safeguards withstood attacks

The Secure Digital Music Initiative releases the results of its challenge to hackers, saying that three out of five music-protection proposals survived attacks.

The record industry-sponsored Secure Digital Music Initiative released on Wednesday the results of its public challenge to hackers, saying that three of five music-protection proposals survived hackers' attacks.

The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) issued the challenge in September, offering $10,000 to anyone who could strip various copy-protection technologies out of songs provided as examples. The group, which is made up of record and consumer electronics companies, is trying to find a secure technology it can use to prevent widespread digital music piracy.

Wednesday's results are preceded by an October report in online magazine Salon.com that said all five technologies had in fact been broken, and that the SDMI group was looking for a way to downplay these results.

SDMI executive director Leonardo Chiariglione dismissed that report at the time and said Wednesday that he stood by the announced results of the group's tests.

"I'm an engineer, which means I deal with facts," he said. "We conducted all the tests that were planned and did not change the rules as we progressed. We came to the conclusion that not all the (technologies) had been hacked."

The group is giving no details on which copy-protection technologies survived the hacks, other than to say that both watermark and non-watermark proposals had passed the test.

More research and discussion has to be done before the group settles on a final standard, however. That could take considerable time, if the group's history of infighting and delays serves as a guide.

The SDMI is meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, in part to dig deeper into the results of this public test and other associated data. Chiariglione said he expects to make "significant progress" toward selecting a standard, but he does not expect to finish the week with a final decision.

"The devil is in the details," Chiariglione said, speaking from the site of the conference. "The people downstairs are talking about the devil."