AirPlay Private Key uncovered

Tue, Apr 12, 2011


Developer James Laird recently reverse engineered the AirPort express private key and released an open source AirPort Express emulator that allows third party hardware to stream music from iTunes and certain iPod models.

My girlfriend moved house, and her Airport Express no longer made it with her wireless access point. I figured it’d be easy to find an ApEx emulator – there are several open source apps out there to play to them. However, I was disappointed to find that Apple used a public-key crypto scheme, and there’s a private key hiding inside the ApEx. So I took it apart (I still have scars from opening the glued case!), dumped the ROM, and reverse engineered the keys out of it.

The private key heretofore was unknown meaning that only Apple’s Airport Express and third party manufacturers with licensing deals could wirelessly stream music from iTunes and various iPods.

A comment thread from Hacker News lays it out:

Previously you could do this:
iTunes — stream to –> Apple Airport Express
3rd party software — stream to –> Apple Airport Express

Now you can do this:
iTunes — stream to –> 3rd party software/hardware

Of course don’t expect any manufacturers to begin implementing the open source hack from Laird anytime soon. Apple offers licensing arrangements for third party manufactures who want to stream audio via AirPlay and recently opened up the possibility for third party manufactures to acquire licenses to stream video as well.


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