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Hack an Oscilloscope, Get a DMCA Take-Down Notice From Tektronix 273

An anonymous reader writes with the news that Hackaday published an article on the poor security of the add-on modules that Tektronix sells as expensive add-ons to unlock features in certain of its oscilloscopes. The reader writes: "It has come to attention of Tek's legal eagles and they now want the article to be taken down. Perhaps they can ask Google to forget that page?"
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Hack an Oscilloscope, Get a DMCA Take-Down Notice From Tektronix

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:10AM (#47612901)

    Woops, This is what I meant to post:
    "MRE says:
    July 28, 2014 at 10:41 am
    I think it is more like this:
    You buy a new car, and to save money, you opt for the ‘no thrills’ package. No radio. No electric windows. No heated seats.
    Upon receiving the car, you discover that the manufacturer did in fact install the radio. Did in fact install the electric windows. And did install the seat heaters.
    However, none of them work. Upon further investigation you discover that to have the items enabled, you must pay the difference in price. But, you poke around and discover that in the fuse box (which required a special screw driver to open), three slots are empty: Radio, Windows, Seats.
    You pop fuses into each slot and everything comes alive.

    Was this theft, or did the factory simply give you the stuff at no cost, and hope you would pay them more money when you decided you wanted the options enabled after all?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:11AM (#47612905)

    Since this is an abuse of the DMCA law Hack-a-day could have told Tektronics to go fuck themselves, but no ...
    After receiving that DMCA notice Hack-a-day quickly changed the wording of the original article (without the permission of the original author, of course)

  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:44AM (#47613085)

    An anonymous reader writes with the news that Hackaday published an article on the poor security of the add-on modules that Tektronix sells as expensive add-ons to unlock features in certain of its oscilloscopes.

    The add-on modules are expensive because you pay for the features they unlock, not for the components of the unlock device itself. It's a dongle.

    This guy is essentially trying to cheat. It's like you could unlock some cool DLC content for a game, but instead just went cracking the encrypted data files and getting that content without paying the game company.

    Hey, if you don't like a scope which has this kind of feature unlock capability, just don't buy it. But stop messing with other people's legitimate business. I can understand why Tektronix is upset about this.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:45AM (#47613097) Homepage

    Personally I don't think this should qualify as infringement since it prevents use - which should not be a copyright violation - rather than duplication

    I agree with you, but the law has more or less been written to allow corporations to maximize profits.

    In truth, I think the DMCA is so broadly written that if they had a default password of "password", their level of incompetence at security is irrelevant. What matters is they had a pretense of security.

    In this case, they've locked out functionality which is already there, and are charging for access to it -- or it sounds like that.

    I agree that it's your device and you should be able to do anything with it, but apparently publishing it so allow other people to not pay for already there features is a bad thing -- because it interferes with a shitty business model and involves a digital lock.

    I think in general, people should just start posting reviews of Techtronix saying they're greedy bastards who sell crippled hardware and then charge ransom to unlock it.

  • by x0 ( 32926 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:01AM (#47613177) Homepage
    All of the manufacturers now ship devices fully kitted and use licenses to unlock/enable additional features. It's less expensive to manufacture one SKU, and then differentiate models by selectively enabling features.

    At least one of the Chinese manufacturers has know about these hacks for quite a while and apparently isn't doing much about it. I expect that they are allowing this to obtain more market share from the hobbyists as I doubt most commercial operators would void warranties.

    Tek is essentially selling a software package as a value add, and they'll charge what they can until Agilent/Keysight one ups them with less expansive software.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:06AM (#47613199) Journal
    Yes. You may be able to guess the password, but based on the "reasonable man" test, I think most people would assume that you weren't meant to guess it. I don't have a problem with this in principle. I do have a problem that it seems to allow companies to extend the reach of copyright.

    My way of seeing it is that anyone who buys the oscilloscope has a legally acquired copy of the software. They just can't access it. Actually accessing legally acquired software should not be illegal. It's not like there's a business model that would be unsustainable without the protection. If they don't want people to use the software, then don't give them the software. If they pay extra then provide the software.

    I agree with your desscription of it being "crippled". This is essentially a law criminalising repair. In the physical world, if I were to sell off faulty stock (which is legitimate as long as I was honest about the fact that it was faulty), I would not be able to use the law to prevent them from repairing it, even if the buyer was competing with my repair business.
  • VHS machines. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:24AM (#47613307) Homepage Journal

    Back in the day, a lot of manufacturers sold different types of VHS recorders, some with more "features" than others. It turned out that all the "buttons" were there behind the plastic faceplate, and it was just the faceplate itself that determined which were the cheap/feature-less models and which were the more expensive models.

    And of course, simply prying off the plastic revealed the extra features.

    So, back in the day, would that be a DMCA violation? Would that be theft? Would the IP police be busting down my door and holding a gun to my head for removing a piece of plastic???

    'Cause that's what we're headed towards, boys and girls.

  • by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:53AM (#47613575)
    In my company, one of our products comes with a useful database. The license clearly stipulates that the database and its updates are only allowed to be used with the product. It is a kind of courtesy to make that product more user friendly. For integration into big central systems the database is available separately with different licensing schemes. Predictably, in the end we had to encrypt the database to enforce compliance, as too many customers (it must be said: less so in western countries) would not care to follow the license. Just because you technically can do something, doesn't make it right, esp. if it is not allowed according to the license.
  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:54AM (#47613581)

    So if Chrysler sold a car without working air-con and without a working stereo, but if you pay $3000 they will enable them, and then someone discovers that the technological measure is they don't put a fuse in the fuse box, and then you stick a fuse in there, is that a technological measure protected by the DMCA?

  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @10:24AM (#47613885)

    This is unfortunately an old practice that has been going on for decades.

    I bought a US made digital scope over a decade ago the TDS220. With it I bought the communications module providing serial RS232, Parallel centronics, and HPGIB interfaces. With it I could connect an HP Laser printer, or Epson Dot Matrix printer and produce hard copies with a limited library of printers. Ths goal was to print to my PC. Then I found out that capibility was bundled in an expensive software package which was extra. Due to my low volume, I could not justify the expense, so to post documentation online, I used an HP 1100 laser printer and a Cannon flatbed scanner.

    Tecktronics did not offer a simple driver just to capture the image on a PC.

    Needless to say, that was the last Tektronics scope I purchased. Any future purchases would include a built in USB interface, with nessarry software as part of the TCO when shopping. I won't be burned twice by the batteries not included sales games.

    As a scope, the scope works fine as long as you don't want a screenshot directly transferred to a PC. For what I paid to obtain the communications module without any communicaitons software was a huge letdown. The printer module was only a little cheaper. Without the software, that is all this module can be used for. Let the buyer beware.

    If you want to buy Made in America, the Americans need to knock off selling cripple ware. It is a bad model and is a huge customer turn off.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas