Feeds

Beastie Boys CD installs virus

Exploits autorun 'feature'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

A new Beastie Boys' CD called "To the Five Boroughs" (Capitol Records), is raising hackles around the Web for reputedly infecting computers with a virus.

According to a recent thread at BugTraq, an executable file is automatically and silently installed on the user's machine when the CD is loaded. The file is said to be a driver that prevents users from ripping the CD (and perhaps others), and attacks both Windows boxen and Macs.

The infected CD is being distributed worldwide except in the USA and UK, which prevents us from giving a firsthand report. However, according to hearsay, we gather that the Windows version exploits the 'autorun' option, and that the Mac version affects the auto play option.

On Windows, when a CD is loaded, a text file called autorun.inf is read, and any instructions within it are executed. In this case, the machine is instructed to install some manner of DRM driver that prevents copying. We haven't seen either the .inf file or any of the executables, so we can't say how or at what level it accomplishes this - or if indeed it actually does accomplish this.

But assuming that the unconfirmed reports are accurate, we have here a media company infecting users' machines silently with a file that affects a computer's functionality, without first obtaining informed consent: a likely violation of pretty much every jurisdiction's anti-hacking laws. It's possible to foresee criminal charges being brought at some point: after all, having a good reason for spreading malware has never been much of a defence in court. And a file that alters a computer's functioning without the owner's informed consent is the very definition of malware. Because this malware can be transferred from machine to machine on a removable disk, and requires user interaction to spread, it is, quite simply, a computer virus. (A worm, on the other hand, is distinguished by its ability to spread without user interaction.)

CD virus protection

Let's look at the ways this autorun business can be defeated. It's quite easy to disable autorun in Windows by holding down the Shift key when loading a CD. Unfortunately, this has to be done each time the CD is played. However, it's easy to insert the CD once with the Shift key depressed, and then simply rip the tracks to the hard disk. You can then use the CD in other devices, and listen to your corresponding MP3s or whatever on your computer.

You can also disable the autorun "feature" on your Windows machine permanently so that this and other CDs infected with viruses won't affect you in the future.

To do this, go to the Start menu ==> Run, and type in the command regedit. Your registry editor will launch. Navigate to the following key, and edit as shown:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\CDRom and set Autorun DWORD=0

It might be necessary to create the value, thus: Data Type: DWORD Value Name: Autorun Value: 0

As usual, you must reboot your Windows box for the changes to take effect.

Disinfection

The above procedure assumes that you haven't previously installed the suspected Capitol Records virus, or a similar one from another fine entertainment conglomerate. But if you have, you will need to find and uninstall the malware first. The autorun.inf file on the CD will likely indicate the name of the relevant file(s), the locations where they're installed, and any registry changes made.

Armed with that information, go to the Windows 'uninstall' utility:

Start menu ==> Settings ==> Control Panel ==> Add or Remove Programs ==> Change/Remove.

Look for any program files referenced in the autorun.inf file and uninstall them. If no related programs are listed, you will need to launch the Windows Search Companion and search for any files named in the autorun.inf file and delete them manually. Be sure to activate the options in the "more advanced features" dialog allowing you to search the entire disk (search system folders, search hidden folders, and search subfolders).

Now, a word of caution: if the Capitol Records virus has updated a library file or driver, deleting it might affect your system's functioning, and you might need to re-install Windows to put things right again. (Carefully log the time needed to do this and include it in your criminal complaint.) However, deleting a foreign executable file is safe, so long as it's not one you actually need. So be careful about file name spellings so that you don't accidentally delete an important file that's spelt similar to the one you wish to be rid of. ®

Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux.

Related stories

Lock-d own CD scores No.1 hit
Biomet ric DRM is 'empowering' says iVue maker
Copy protection to extend to multiple but limited burns
EMI admits CD copy protection compatibility problems
Copy-crippled CDs launch in UK, baffling Auntie Beeb

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple ran off to IBM
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.