Xbox hackers 'game on' once again

Have the techies overcome their fear of lawyers?
Written by David Becker, Contributor

Have the techies overcome their fear of lawyers?

A group of computer hobbyists has resumed its effort to crack the main security code for Microsoft's Xbox video game console. The Neo Project, a group that uses distributed computing techniques to crack security challenges, on Wednesday began offering software for its "Operation Project X." Distributed computing, best known for the Seti@Home project, utilises the processing power of multiple computers to carry out complex computing tasks. The Neo Project software will use thousands of PCs to try to guess the 2,048-bit encryption code used by the Xbox, an approach that could take years to yield results. A cracked encryption code could allow hackers to run homemade Linux software on an unmodified Xbox, satisfying a the rules of a $100,000 Xbox hacking challenge established by Michael Robertson, chief executive of Linux software company Lindows. The Neo Project began working on the Xbox security code late last year but abruptly dropped the project, citing unspecified legal concerns. Project founder Mike Curry said in an email interview that after consulting with lawyers, he was confident the new project was on solid legal ground as an educational research project. "We will not actually break any laws until we crack the code," he said. Microsoft zealously has fought efforts to crack security systems built into the Xbox, particularly 'mod chips' - gray-market add-ons that can be installed in consoles to bypass security measures. The company has changed the Xbox configuration, sued a leading mod chip distributor, and used its Xbox live online gaming service to thwart mod chips. The US Department of Justice entered the fray late last month, shutting down a mod chip reseller for allegedly violating provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
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