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Firm gives P2P networks adware infection

Microsoft investigating DRM loophole

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Not content with poisoning P2P networks with fake music files, an ally of the big media companies has decided to lob pop-ups and adware at users, according to research done by reporters at PC World.

Overpeer grabbed headlines in 2002 for its work infecting P2P networks with garbled music at the behest of some major music labels. It now looks like the company - a subsidiary of Loudeye - is sending out contaminated files that launch numerous ad-filled browser windows and that try to take over a user's homepage. Loudeye is standing by the practice, saying P2P users are getting what they deserve.

"Remember, the people who receive something like (the ad-laden media files), in some cases, were on P-to-P, and they were trying to get illicit files," Marc Morgenstern, a vice president at Loudeye told PC World.

Two US courts have ruled that decentralized P2P networks are legal and have blocked the major record labels from holding P2P software makers directly accountable for their users' actions. These legal decisions prompted the media giants to sue individuals suspected of trading copyrighted files. Now users must also face a type of PC ad assault.

"A reader initially alerted PC World to an ad-laden Windows Media Audio file, titled 'Alicia Keys Fallin' Songs In A Minor 4.wma,'" the magazine wrote. "We then found two other WMA files and two Windows Media Video files that had been similarly modified."

"Using a packet analysis tool called Etherpeek, we determined that each media file loaded a page served by a company called Overpeer (owned by Loudeye). That page set off a chain of events that led to the creation of several Internet Explorer windows, each containing a different ad or adware."

Ads from seven different ad-serving companies appeared when the magazine ran the supposed Alicia Keys file. Just one of these firms - Kanoodle - responded to PC World and said it would immediately remove its ads.

Microsoft also said it was investigating whether or not the adware violates Windows DRM (digital rights management) policies. Hackers could potentially mimic Overpeer and use the Windows Media DRM loophole to install more vicious malware on users' machines.

The full PC World report can be found here. ®

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