You probably don’t even have a 4K TV yet, but content providers are already getting the video ready for the day when you do. Netflix is one of the main sources for 4K video right now as we await 4K Blu-Ray discs, and thus far content producers could feel secure providing their UHD video on the streaming platform. However, it appears that the first pirated 4K content from Netflix has hit torrent sites, calling into question how secure the latest DRM schemes really are.
The leak in question is the first episode of Breaking Bad, which has a run time of 58 minutes. For less than an hour of 2160p video, you’re looking at a whopping 17.7GB. That’s about 50 times larger than the standard definition version of the episode. File size will vary a bit based on the encoding used by the release group, but this one has a bitrate of 41.3Mbps. A 4K file can go much higher when you don’t have to worry about streaming it over the internet. Even this relatively modest 4K file will push the average laptop’s decoding capacity during playback.
This version of Breaking Bad is based on new 4K masters, so there’s a lot of interest in it. The Blu-Rays were based on an older 2K master. The leaked episode only has video and subtitles from Netflix. The audio is ripped from the Blu-Ray version of the show.
It’s notable that Breaking Bad was ripped from Netflix at all, seeing as it was protected with the latest 2.2 version of High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP). This DRM scheme was implemented after attacks were found that allowed HDCP 2.0 and 2.1 to be cracked. Some past versions of HDCP were broken when master keys were leaked as well. It’s not clear if the release group (the well-respected iON) actually managed to break HDCP 2.2 or if they found some other way to rip the stream from Netflix. HDCP works by requiring an authenticated path from the source to output. Any anomalous device or software should prevent the video from playing.
Netflix is investigating the leak, but it’s unlikely the responsible party will be found. 4K video streams are generally labeled with a discreet digital watermark that can be analyzed to determine the account a file was ripped from. However, piracy groups are usually well-acquainted with this technique and know to strip it from the uploaded version.
The Breaking Bad pilot is probably just the start. If someone has figured out a reliable way to rip HDCP 4K content from Netflix, there will be many more leaks in the future. The average pirate probably won’t be downloading it yet, though. Almost 20GB is a lot of data to store for a single hour of TV — that would be well over 1TB for all of Breaking Bad. At that point, it’s probably easier to just subscribe to Netflix.