Gathan Beaga

sony rootkit?

Rootkit? According to Wikipedia -

A root kit is a set of tools used by an intruder after cracking a computer system. These tools are intended to help the attacker maintain his or her access to the system and use it for malicious purposes

The last couple of days have seen a bit of controv over the latest escalation in the DRM war.

It was sparked off by this article, in which the author ran across a suspicious hidden process on their computer. Thinking it might be some new sort of spyware or other malware, he eventually tracked it down to a Sony CD he played in his computer some months previously.

To play the CD on his computer he had been forced to install a special player. Behind the scenes though, and without disclosure, other, hidden, software was being installed. This software inserted itself at quite a low level in his system in an effort to stop the CD being accessed by any software other than the Sony-approved player that came with the CD.

This is where the “rootkit” definition comes into play. Essentially, Sony, having gained access to your computer, installs hidden software on there that you can’t uninstall and that anti-virus can’t detect that maintains their ability to prevent you from ever accessing the CD you bought in any way that Sony does not approve of.

While one can debate Sony’s right to control what music purchasers can do with their music, there is a line here that Sony have crossed with their method of control that means this is now in some very ugly territory. At what point do you consider that Sony has hacked your machine? How can you uninstall the software (and it’s worth noting that simply deleting the files – once you’ve identified them – will actually disable your CDROM drive) safely? And simply having this thing on your PC makes it less secure, as really malicious malware writers can use the same method of hiding installed by Sony to camouflage their own activities!

I don’t like where this is headed. Looks like my personal rule not to buy any music CDs with Copy Control / DRM on them has become more than just opposition to music industry crap, but is now an essential PC security precaution. And does this mean that we are now safer to use illegal downloads instead of buying the CD?

Copy control? Just don’t do it.