December 7, 2005

Not Just a First4 Problem for Sony BMG [2:13 pm]

SunnComm Makes Security Update Available To Address Recently Discovered Vulnerability On Its MediaMax Version 5 Content Protection Software, Which Is Included On Certain SONY BMG CDs

The security vulnerability on SunnComm MediaMax Version 5 software differs from that reported in early November on First4Internet XCP software contained on certain SONY BMG CDs. A full list of the 27 U.S. SunnComm MediaMax Version 5 titles is included in the link below. Consumers can download the software update that is designed to address this security vulnerability from SunnComm’s and Sony BMG’s websites at http://www.sunncomm.com/support/updates/update.asp and http://www.sonybmg.com/mediamax.

The security issue involves a file folder installed on users’ computers by the MediaMax software that could allow malicious third parties who have localized, lower-privilege access to gain control over a consumer’s computer running the Windows operating system.

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Rundown on Electronic Voting Machines [9:04 am]

Voting Machines Under Scrutiny

The potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines’ reliability.

Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills.

[...] An October report from the Government Accountability Office predicted that steps to improve the reliability of electronic voting “are unlikely to have a significant effect” in the 2006 off-year elections, partly because certification procedures remain a work in progress.

[...] In North Carolina, more stringent requirements — which include placing the machines’ software code in escrow for examination in case of a problem — have led one supplier, Diebold Inc., to say it will withdraw from the state, where about 20 counties use Diebold voting machines.

A different type of showdown is brewing in California, where Secretary of State Bruce McPherson says he might force makers of the machines to prove their systems can withstand attacks from a hacker. One such test on a Diebold system — Diebold machines were blamed for voting disruptions in a 2004 California primary — is planned.

The state has been negotiating details with Harri Hursti, a security expert from Finland who uncovered severe flaws in a Diebold system used in Leon County, Fla. (He demonstrated how vote results could be changed, then made screens flash “Are we having fun yet?”)

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It’s Not Just The EU [8:58 am]

Microsoft Loses Antitrust Case Before S. Korean Regulators

South Korean antitrust regulators ruled Wednesday that Microsoft Corp. abused its market dominance, fined it $32 million and ordered the software giant to offer alternative versions of Windows. Microsoft said it will appeal the decision in court.

[...] The ruling comes after the U.S. software giant reached separate settlements with companies that then withdrew the complaints that led to the investigation. The companies had complained that Microsoft violated trade rules by bundling its instant messenger software to Windows.

The commission ordered Microsoft to offer two versions of Windows within 180 days.

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Movie Companies With Agendas [8:49 am]

Something new? Or just a more brazen form of something old? Critic’s Notebook: Movies With a Message and Their Money Trail

Film production companies don’t usually have missions beyond the obvious one of making money. But two relatively new companies - Participant Productions, whose recent movies include “Syriana” and “North Country,” and Walden Media, a producer of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” - have overt social purposes and activist campaigns attached to their movies. The old Watergate-era dictum “Follow the money” has suddenly become relevant to moviegoers.

[...] It’s no coincidence that these companies are backed by billionaires who understand the power of the media: Participant by the eBay tycoon Jeffrey Skoll, a Canadian citizen, and Walden by the Qwest mogul Philip F. Anschutz, a Christian Republican. Each company insists it is apolitical, which is true in the strictest sense; they don’t support candidates. But in the broader, everything-is-political sense, the more liberal Participant and the more conservative Walden are pushing and pulling the social fabric and the landscape of filmmaking. This movie production money comes with strings attached, and for the ordinary moviegoer the questions become: Do you know who’s controlling the purse strings? Does it matter?

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Another Participant in TV Downloads for $s [8:44 am]

Apparently, the demand is there: NBC to Sell TV Shows for Viewing on Apple Software

NBC Universal said yesterday that it would start to sell downloadable versions of 11 of its current and older television shows through the iTunes Music Store of Apple Computer.

NBC is the second major television network to distribute programming through Apple. In October, Apple started to sell episodes from five current programs on the ABC network, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company. Those programs can be watched both on Apple’s latest generation of iPod portable players and on Apple and Windows-based personal computers running Apple’s iTunes software.

Also, the WaPo’s NBC Universal, ITunes Team On Downloads of TV Shows

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The Consequences of TimesSelect [8:41 am]

With the introduction of TimesSelect, I have no longer bothered to check the Times’ opinion RSS feed, so I missed this contributed piece — from an artist: Op-Ed Contributor: Buy, Play, Trade, Repeat

This technological disaster aside, though, Sony BMG and the other major labels need to face reality: copy-protection software is bad for everyone, consumers, musicians and labels alike. It’s much better to have copies of albums on lots of iPods, even if only half of them have been paid for, than to have a few CD’s sitting on a shelf and not being played.

The Sony BMG debacle revealed the privacy issues and security risks tied to the spyware that many copy-protection programs install on users’ computers. But even if these problems are solved, copy protection is guaranteed to fail because it’s a house of cards. No matter how sophisticated the software, it takes only one person to break it, once, and the music is free to roam and multiply on the peer-to-peer file-trading networks.

Meanwhile, music lovers get pushed away.

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