More on the Sony DRM Hacks

Study of Sony Anti-Piracy Software Triggers Uproar [pdf]

“Here you have one of the biggest name-brand corporations on the planet getting into what many people in other circumstances would consider hacking,” said Richard Smith, a security and privacy consultant based in Boston. “That’s just not acceptable.”

Later: Sony Patch Reveals Its Anti-Piracy Files on PCs [pdf]

Sony Corp.’s music division said Wednesday it is distributing a free software patch to reveal hidden files that were automatically installed on hard drives when some of its music CDs were played on personal computers.

[…] Sony BMG Music Entertainment and its partner, Britain-based First 4 Internet Ltd., said they decided to offer the patch as a precaution, not because of any security vulnerability as some critics had alleged.

“What we decided to do is take extra precautionary steps to allay any fears,” said Mathew Gilliat-Smith, First 4 Internet’s CEO. “There should be no concern here.”

Later: When Vendors Install Malware

First 4 Internet released an update to their software today that removes the cloaking aspects of the software.

In other words, it won’t hide files and registry entries beginning with ‘$sys$’ after this update. Contrary to some reports, the update won’t allow you to remove the software.

Interestingly, the update was at first released as an ActiveX control, requiring the use of Internet Explorer, but was later changed to a static executable. Both versions require that you trust First 4 Internet, a company plainly undeserving of trust.

[…] Blowing off “technical questions” to First 4 Internet, as Sony does in this case, doesn’t cut it for me. Nobody, and I mean nobody, buying a Sony CD thinks they are buying a First 4 Internet product. At a bare minimum, Sony needs to say that they will never do this again, and I think they need to clear out the channel.

As a BBC report states, the rootkit may violate British law. I’m not so sure about U.S. law, but I know there were states working on laws that this program would violate.

Also, see DRM this, Sony!

What’s the solution? In the near term, for us, it’s not to buy any Sony CDs, and maybe not any Sony anything. In the longer term, it’s to start agitating for a rewrite of copyright law in the manner so eloquently suggested recently by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal [pdf]. He suggests copyright law with actual teeth that can chomp on massive-scale piracy, but with broad exemptions for personal use, because excessive DRM is hampering innovation and alienating consumers. I couldn’t put it any better. And companies? Sony? Are you really going to tell us that overhauling these outmoded rules is harder and more destructive than suing retirees over honest mistakes made by their 12-year-old grandsons? This is the path you’re going to choose?

Later: It looks like it’s even worse — Sony Rootkit Phones Home — humorous comment on the fact that the Slashdot story shows how to circumvent the rootkit’s protections – Uh Oh

I smell a DMCA violation on the /. front page! Cue the Sony lawyers in 4..3..2….

Apparently, though, it doesn’t work, so no one at /. has to worry.