Feeds

Removing Sony's CD 'rootkit' kills Windows

More fun with digital audio

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Sysinternals' Mark Russinovich has performed an analysis of the copy restriction measures deployed by Sony Music on its latest CDs: which he bluntly calls a 'root kit'. Using conventional tools to remove Sony's digital media malware will leave ordinary users with Windows systems unable to play CDs.

While the Sony CDs play fine on Red Book audio devices such as standard consumer electronics CD players, when they're played on a Windows PC the software forces playback through a bundled media player, and restricts how many digital copies can be made from Windows.

A 'root kit' generally refers to the nefarious malware used by hackers to gain control of a system. A root kit has several characteristics: it finds its way onto systems uninvited; endeavors to remain undetected; and then may either intercept system library routines and reroute them to its own routines, or replace system executables with its own, or both - all with the intention of gaining system level ownership of the computer.

What makes Sony's CD digital media software particularly nasty is that using expert tools for removing the parasite risks leaving you with a Windows PC that's useless, and that requires a full reformat and reinstall.

So is Sony bundling a root kit, or is it the latest in a long line of clumsy, and sometimes laughably inept attempts to thwart the playback of digital media on PCs?

We were inclined to the latter - but in practical terms, for ordinary users, the consequences are so serious that semantic distinctions are secondary.

In actuality both, reckons Russinovich. It's a 'root kit' that arrived uninvited, but it's also "underhanded and sloppy software" , that once removed, prevented Windows from playing his CD again (Van Zant's 'Get With The Man') he notes in his analysis.

The Sony CD creates a hidden directory and installs several of its own device drivers, and then reroutes Windows systems calls to its own routines. It intercepts kernel-level APIs, but then attempts to disguise its presence, using a crude cloaking technique.

Disingenuously, the copy restriction binaries were labelled "Essential System Tools".

But the most disturbing part of the tale came when Russinovich ran his standard rootkit-removal tool on the post-Sony PC.

"Users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files," he writes.

Which puts it in an entirely different class of software to the copy restriction measures we've seen so far, which can be disabled by a Post-It note. Until specialist tools arrive to disinfect PCs of this particular measure. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.