Feeds

Homeland security urges DRM rootkit ban

Give it up

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

US government officials took Sony BMG to task over its controversial use of rootkit-style copy protection at a security conference this week. If the technology proves harmful to consumers, tougher laws and regulations might be proposed, a senior Department of Homeland Security exec warned.

"Legislation or regulation may not be appropriate in all cases, but it may be warranted in some circumstances," said Jonathan Frenkel, director of law enforcement policy with the DHS's Border and Transportation Security Directorate, PC World reports.

Sony BMG's flawed approach to Digital Rights Management technology was exposed after security researchers discovered XCP anti-piracy software, that shipped with some of Sony BMG's music CDs, masked its presence and introduced a vulnerability that hackers and virus writers began to target. Under pressure, Sony was forced to recall discs loaded with the technology and create an exchange program for consumers.

Sony came in for yet more criticism after it emerged that SunComm's MediaMax anti-piracy software, used as an alternative to First4Internet's XCP program on Sony BMG CDs shipped in the US and Canada, also created a security risk. The first version of the patch released to address the SunnComm MediaMax version 5 software had a flaw of its own. Security researchers are currently reviewing a second patch.

DHS officials had a meeting with Sony BMG shortly after the story broke during which the entertainment reps were read the riot act. "The message was certainly delivered in forceful terms that this was certainly not a useful thing," Frenkel said.

Government officials are concerned that the rootkit tactic, if repeated, could leave consumers' systems open to hacker attack. The DHS lacks the power to push through laws itself, but it does have the ears of legislators, if not all the elements of the entertainment industry.

Despite the adverse publicity provoked by the Sony BMG incident, the entertainment industry is still experimenting with the use of rootkit-style copy protection technology. For example, it emerged earlier this week that the German language DVD release of Mr and Mrs Smith, which stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a married couple who hide their jobs as assassins from each other, contained a rootkit. The Settec Alpha-DISC copy protection system used on the DVD incorporates rootkit-like features to hide itself, according to an analysis by anti-virus firm F-Secure.

"The recent Sony experience shows us that we need to be thinking about how to ensure consumers aren't surprised by what their software is programmed to do," Frenkel said during a panel discussion at the RSA 2006 security conference in San Jose this week. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.