W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html-media@w3.org > June 2015

[EME] Netflix’s secure release is unreliable without tamper-proof secure persistent storage and/or delayed shutdown

From: David Dorwin <ddorwin@google.com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2015 17:19:17 -0700
Message-ID: <CAHD2rsiOVpFLAhoxEGHvhnm=XTiXNqT-ZZUuuhSnrF7tJLavpg@mail.gmail.com>
To: "public-html-media@w3.org" <public-html-media@w3.org>
While investigating the latest definition of the proposed secure release
feature, we identified a rollback attack in the absence of CDM access
to **tamper-proof
secure persistent storage**. The proposed alternative assumes CDM storage
can be written after the application is closed, which reintroduces a form
of delayed shutdown. While rollback attacks are a common issue handled by
CDMs, they can often be addressed through runtime and/or server-based
mechanisms. Secure release, however, is akin to an offline license without
the user benefits of enabling offline playback. Offline licenses and
playback require secure storage, which is limited to a subset of clients -
often with higher robustness levels - and is not assumed to be widely
available across all platforms or implementations.

Therefore, we continue to believe that reliance on the server for
concurrent stream limitations is the most sustainable way to support a
breadth of clients and ensure a cohesive experience as platforms evolve.
Unless there is a solution that can be equally and reliably implemented
across the wide breadth of web platform clients, we do not believe secure
release has a place in EME. (Not to mention the more general concerns I
have mentioned elsewhere, such as [1].)

**Impact**

**Tamper-proof secure persistent storage** increases the complexity of
implementations [2] and is currently impossible for third party CDMs,
especially without sacrificing key security features like sandboxing. The
two EME implementations cited as having deployed secure release at
scale [3] a) use first-party OS-based DRM implementations and b) are tied
to specific versions of their respective desktop OS. Lack of equivalent
ability for third-party implementers, including smaller user agents and CDM
vendors, puts them at a further competitive disadvantage.

Furthermore, reliance on tamper-proof secure persistent storage (or
delaying shutdown until data is persisted) is a **constraint on platform
innovation**. Future platforms and implementations may not have traditional
architectures or capabilities and will have to account for ways to support
this Netflix-specific functionality. Even existing implementations could
run into problems in the future if the user agent architecture changes or
internals are refactored. Furthermore, there is at least one existing
implementation that does not persist application storage across browsing
sessions.

**Preventing Rollback**

With tamper-proof secure persistent CDM storage, the CDM periodically
stores license usage and reports it when requested, either in the current
browsing session or later. Identifying suspicious users is straightforward
because it should be very rare to not receive more than one or two valid
usage data reports over a period of time.

However, without such secure persistent storage, an attacker may trivially
replace the stored usage data with an older copy, including a state that
had no recorded license usage. This is indistinguishable from the content
never being played. Identifying suspicious users in this case is very
complex and is highly dependent on specific client implementations
properties, which could vary between versions of the same client. It seems
reasonable that non-trivial numbers of playbacks might not have data
reported on some implementations.

**Why not wait until playback completes to persist the data?**

The alternatives are to a) keep usage data in memory, persisting it only
when the session is closed, or b) distinguish the final state from
transient states by writing some sort of flag when the session is closed.
However, this does not prevent an attacker from "rolling back" to a
no-usage stage.  Additionally, a session can be closed or many reasons,
including the user closing the application (e.g. tab). In those cases, CDM
implementations must ensure that such data is written after the application
is closed. For some CDM implementations, this may be simple because they
run as a separate process, but others, such as those that rely on the user
agent for storage, may require that the hosting user agent delay shutdown
until such writes are committed.

The absence of usage data could mean any of a) the keys were never used, b)
the application was closed and the CDM could not store state, or c) there
is abuse. Therefore, the server needs to evaluate aggregate data and look
for suspicious patterns to detect potential fraud. Yet, even a significant
lack of usage data could be legitimate (e.g. tab closure without delayed
shutdown enforcement). Thus, with potentially large numbers of “suspicious
users,” a content provider would require another mechanism to improve fraud
detection and/or *_enforce_* concurrent stream limitations for such users.

**Conclusion**

Without a tamper-proof secure persistent storage available to every
implementor across every web platform client, secure release is ineffective
as a fraud detection (and prevention) mechanism, especially for general
use, which is the purpose of web specs.

The alternative requires implementations to delay shutdown to ensure
playback data is written to storage and that applications implement
extensive and complex server analyses to prevent false positives.

Content providers can achieve equivalent levels of detection and **better**
enforcement using a relaxed renewal/heartbeat configuration without
significant impact on server load or user experience. (I would be happy to
discuss this in more detail.) Those using secure release are going to need
a server-based alternative for “suspected” accounts anyway.

The advantages of simpler mechanisms to users, applications, and
implementers are clear. As a result, I recommend that we remove secure
release from the EME spec and focus our efforts on defining and documenting
better alternatives.


[1] https://github.com/w3c/encrypted-media/issues/45#issuecomment-91743387
[2] We are not against managing increased complexity for the benefit of of
users, if there is data that this provides users with a better user
experience than alternatives and can be implemented on all EME-enabled
platforms. This remains unproven.
[3] https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html-media/2015Apr/0080.html
Received on Friday, 12 June 2015 00:20:08 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Friday, 17 January 2020 15:49:02 UTC