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Developer reverse-engineers the Airport Express private key


Apple’s portable base station called Airport Express is only able to stream music from iTunes, but not to third-party applications. In addition, some rare third-party programs can stream music to Airport Express or AirPlay devices. As noted by MacRumors, developer James Laird has fixed this by reverse-engineering the Airport Express private key to create Shareport, an open-sourced AirPort Express emulator that contains an RAOP server to stream music from iTunes and iPods to third-party software and hardware. Laird explains:

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 news will have the hacking community jump with joy, but official hardware manufacturers are unlikely to risk losing their relationship with Apple by tapping an undocumented feature. I have no doubt in my mind that developers out there will write all sorts of add-ons for streaming iTunes music to unsupported devices, such as Game consoles and tablets.

The fact that Apple didn’t bother provide such a feature with the AirPort Express suggests that the company is 100 percent dedicated to AirPlay, its media streaming technology that bridges the gap between iOS gadgets and television.

Unfortunately, a half-baked AirPlay implementation requires an Apple TV for this, but this will change as Apple updates the technology and more consumer electronics makers release AirPlay-compatible gear. For example, Apple is rumored to be licensing AirPlay video to television makers, which would allow iPhones, iPods and iPads to stream media to the big screen without an Apple TV or a computer involved.

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