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Sony digital boss - rootkit ignorance is bliss

But IT Depts beg to differ

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The President of Sony BMG's global digital business division Thomas Hesse has weighed into the storm over the 'rootkit'-style copy restriction software introduced on some recent audio CDs.

Sony's software installs itself by stealth, conceals itself, then intercepts low level Windows systems calls. Removing it causes the CD drive to be rendered inoperable. The only cure is to reformat the disk and reinstall Windows.

What responsibility did Hesse feel for the havoc his CDs had caused?

"Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?" he huffed.

I think we can take that as: "No responsibility at all."

(Hesse made his comments on NPR radio on Friday - you can hear them here, 1m:50s into the short report.)

But IT departments beg to differ.

A support manager at an IT department in a medium sized corporation told us that a CD-borne infection of Sony DRM is already causing his team headaches.

A major antivirus vendor diagnosed the problem as a nasty case of DRM, he told us, but the problem didn't end there. The Sony 'root kit' causes the antivirus software to go haywire, popping up alerts at the rate of one a second.

Three systems have so far been flattened, he said. The original culprit was a Van Zant CD - from Sony BMG.

And it gets worse.

On Sunday Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals.com, whose forensics last week identified the DRM as a 'rootkit' style infection, has been taking a look at the patch subsequently issued by First4Internet, the British company which wrote the crippleware.

All the patch does is force XP to issue Windows commands (eg, "net stop") that disable the driver. Because XP is a multithreaded OS, this is a brute force procedure that can cause the system to crash if resources are in contention.

Russinovich also notes that the Sony DRM software still contains vulnerabilities that expose a system to a potential blue screen of death. Instead of exiting gracefully and returning standard Windows system errors, the DRM exits disgracefully.

Which, we suggest, is exactly what Sony's Herr Hesse should be considering right now.

Have you had problems with Sony in your IT support department? Write and let us know. ®

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