Feeds

Homeland security urges DRM rootkit ban

Give it up

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.