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Sony bundles rootkit-like software on USB drive

Hits replay on CD debacle

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A USB fingerprint authentication device from Sony contains rootkit-like technology, according to security watchers. The MicroVault USM-F fingerprint reader software bundled with the stick installs a hidden directory under Windows.

"Files in this directory are also hidden from some antivirus scanners (as with the Sony BMG DRM case) — depending on the techniques employed by the anti-virus software. It is therefore technically possible for malware to use the hidden directory as a hiding place," warns anti-virus firm F-Secure.

Attempts to hide MicroVault software in a hidden directory may be an attempt to protect fingerprint authentication from tampering and bypass. This aim is laudable but the technique Sony used is misguided, F-Secure argues.

Sony, which drew fire for its use of similar rootkit-like techniques as copy protection mechanism on CDs two years ago, is yet to respond to the latest criticism.

Back in 2005 Sony BMG endured a public-relations and legal nightmare after it emerged digital rights management (DRM) software installed on some of its music CDs (First4Internet XCP program) created a handy means for hackers to hide malware from anti-virus scanning programs. Under pressure, Sony has been forced to recall discs loaded with the technology and create an exchange program for consumers. The music label still faces class action lawsuits by users who allege that their PCs have been damaged by the technology. ®

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