November 11, 2005 11:50 AM PST

Sony halts production of 'rootkit' CDs

Sony BMG Music Entertainment said Friday that it will suspend production of CDs with copy-protection technology that has been exploited by virus writers to try to hide their malicious code on PCs.

The decision by the music label comes after 10 days of controversy around the technology, which is designed to limit the number of copies that can be made of the CD and to prevent a computer user from making unprotected MP3s of the music.

Security experts blasted the technology because it uses "rootkit" techniques to hide itself on hard drives and could be used by virus writers to make their malicious code invisible. The first remote-control Trojan horses that took advantage of the cloak provided by Sony BMG surfaced this week.

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"We are aware that a computer virus is circulating that may affect computers with XCP content protection software," the record label said in a statement Friday. "We stand by content protection technology as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology."

The company said it is not halting production of all discs that contain additional copy-protection technologies. It also uses antipiracy technology from SunnComm and will keep manufacturing CDs carrying that software, a Sony BMG representative said.

The XCP software, created by U.K.-based First 4 Internet, is included on a limited number of Sony BMG titles, including recent releases from My Morning Jacket and Southern rockers Van Zant. When the discs are played on a computer, the listener is asked to click through a consent form and install the copy-protection software.

In response to the firestorm of criticism around the copyright protection software, Sony BMG has also provided a patch to fix the security problem and still allow CDs to be played on computers. Some antivirus software also detects the Sony BMG tool and can help users protect their PCs.


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An example...
of why companies, along with those who exploit, should be held liable for the problems they create.

The company that created this software should be held liable for the damage it could cause. Sony should be held liable for stupidly using this software. The people who would exploit the cracks in this software should also be held liable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Of course there's all kinds of holes in that logic, but I hope you get the idea.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The distributor is responsible
It is perfectly legal for me to write distructive viruses all day
long, but it is not legal for me to release them into the wild to
infect other people's machines.

IMO, the rootkit authors are acting as an agent of Sony, and
Sony should be held resposible for all damages caused by this ill
conceived, poorly written, piece of malware. At the very least
they should have to pay the cost of reinstalling Windows from
scratch on all their victims computers.

But on second thought, according to statistics 90% of all
Windows computers in the world are already infected with
viruses and/or spyware so most people wouldn't even notice the
Sony virus.

Never mind :)
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
And its also a good example of how a grass roots uproar can stop these idiots from trying to so limit access to copy that it limits your rights to something you own. I emailed Sony the day after the story broke.
Posted by robanga (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I will NEVER buy or use a Sony CD again.
I will NEVER buy or use a Sony CD again.
Posted by Stan Johnson (322 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'll go a step further...
I am downloading every Sony artist I can find anywhere and sending it out to every P2P network I can find. Sony will SO regret the day they decided to use this BS technology.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Link Flag
No more SONY, period
I've been catching myself avoiding all Sony products. I don't want to put any more money into these guys' pockets. They make me feel like I'm a criminal simply for buying their products. This tells me one thing: they are more concerned about their bottom line than anything else, and if they had given a flying flick, they'd have kept this ludicrous idea in the circular file, where it belongs.

They apparently don't give a spit about me, so I can tell them now the feeling's mutual. I've never had such distaste for such a trusted brand as I do now.

Sony won't make it into this house any longer, that's for sure. Can't wait to sell my Sony stuff on ebay and replace everything from a brand that doesn't think I'm worthless!
Posted by Stez (16 comments )
Link Flag
Not good enough
Stopping the production of these rootkit-equipped CDs is good. Providing a patch to unhide the rootkit's folder is good. However, Sony needs to make freely available a program to UNINSTALL their rootkit - none of this "beg and plead, and maybe we'll deign to send you the URL" garbage!

Personally, I hope that SonyBMG gets the living crap sued out of them.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sony: how about stopping the SunnComm CD production as well?
Mac users are not affected by this particular XCP rootkit, primarily because there's no auto-run under OS X. However, if you've read my post on Macintouch, Sony licenses other software as well, with similar (albeit slightly less intrusive) behavior. Sony: do we really need kernel extensions similar DRM technology on audio CDs?
-Darren Dittrich

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Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Sony should have listened to customers before all this
This fiasco wouldn't happen if Sony had half a clue. But they don't. I will continue to NOT recommend any Sony products to friends and family. Sony can't even play MP3's without converting it to their lame and DRM infested format!
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
well ain't they nice
Well this is good, I guess, especially since you can use the same trick to hide your own cd burning app, and since sony's junk won't see that either, you can burn cd copies to your heart's content! But I will also make sure to NEVER buy a cd with sony anywhere on the label, that is if I ever buy a cd again anyway.
Posted by NahNood (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Punish the ones Paying for the CDs ?
They complain about people stealing their music and yet who do they punish? Those actually paying for their goods. Make any sense?
Posted by LisaO (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Timid first step by Sony
The next thing they need to do is issue a recall for all the CDs using that rootkit.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's what I was thinking!
Stopping production is one thing. They should issue a recall. Like a car with a defective and potentially dangerous part gets recalled to be fixed, Sony's discs need to be recalled and replaced with a disc that is not going to damage your machine.
Posted by ColinMackay (2 comments )
Link Flag
Our concerns about Sony are over. . .
. . .Or so I thought. At least as far as Sony BMG Music Entertainment and the Sony Corporation concerns me and the CNET membership crew, we will not have to worry our little heads big time regarding all sorts of scenarios.
Posted by swgoldwire36 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They still don't care about us consumers...
Not making any more of these CDs is one thing, but it's still not nearly enough. Unless Sony gets its act together, I sure won't be buying any more Sony products. If you care about the rights of consumers, you shouldn't either.

To do the right thing, Sony would have to completely apologize for this, state it won't do anything like this again, and of course easily provide a program (publicly on its web site) to completely uninstall the software. It hasn't done any of this.

It's more likely they'll just take whatever steps they can to limit their legal liability over this incident and then keep on shoving this DRM crap down our throats in any other way they possibly can.

We consumers can and should stand up for ourselves.

Sony should realize the best way to continue making profits in the long-term is to offer innovative, high-quality products at good prices.

As this instance showed, simply penalizing consumers with draconian and unethical restrictions (especially when what they sell is mostly over-priced crap to begin with) will eventually backfire.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Temporary? Ha! Ha! gottcha yet again!
Temporary, says what it means,means what it says! This shows SONY, is and will always remain unrepenitent, and continue to illtreat all it's consumers any way it so chooses! It is a sad day that one is now required to prescan all new optical disc's even from legitimate sources, to detect deviant malware etc, whilst simultaneously maintaining an uncorrupted system backup copy, to reinstall in case of infection. Nah!, this be but another straw apology, until an actual physical recall of all infected media,without billing the costs to the recording artist together will full compensation for loss earning from reduced sales(pay the artist royalties in full, for all the audio discs unsold and/or recovered!), damages to artists' reputation etc. Further adequate compensation to all windows computer users thus infected both now and in the future from this malware of cloaked files technology supplied courtesy of SONY! Oh well, let the consumer ire continue unabated, and SONY be well and truly fried by a 100 million small cuts, by both Government lawyers(infecting all computers is use by state and federal agencies by innappropiate malware software is a felony offence) and every other lawyer, including small claims compensation for repair to all damaged and compromised computers, illegal removal of consumer rights etc!!!!!!!! ALL I SAY IS DON'T BUY ANYTHING WITH SONY'S LOGO PERIOD FROM THIS DAY FORTH!!!!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Security now
only because the security now podcast did a whole episode on Rootkits the another episode "Sony Rootkit DRM"
Posted by ipodman143 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Only Because...
... exploits are now in the wild taking advantage of sony sponsored and distributed malware. If no exploits were released they would continue with their present course and require that the software designer attempt to make it yet again invisible some other way. You can be they are moving on to plan "B", which by now is plan "A". sony will never get it, even after it costs them $1B in damages and costs.

Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
Next on the agenda is...
Total recall/replacement/reimbursement of affected disks, reimbursement for cost of all repairs to every affected system and a public flogging of all management level personnel involved in this fiasco.
Posted by Muddleme (99 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just one more reason...
to like my Mac. Mac and Linux were and are unaffected by this
"rootkit". :D

I am still waiting for Microsoft to get a clue and make a real OS
where things like this aren't possible or at the very least a hell of a
lot harder,... until then I have OS X! Enjoy!
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I heard that apple is going to make Mac OS for PCs and is switching to Intel Prossesers. Now I can finnaly have my VooDoo Pc with Mac OSX YAYAYAYA!!
Posted by kvkx71 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Actually MAC's are affected...
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Sony's DRM CD's install two kernel extensions, although I don't think anyone's sure yet what exactly they do.
Posted by Muddleme (99 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft will become irrelevant
The network is the the operating system. The closes operating system that is actually RUNNING the network is linux/unix based.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Link Flag
Oh they are
They are indeed working on fulfilling your wish. But be careful what you wish for - the cure may be worse than the problem. The first name for this "solution" was Palladium...
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
No more Sony workout music
I will remove all the Sony cd's from our club
All the classes will be taught without Sony music in sight
Hell, next time I buy head-phones I will make sure I won't buy Sony

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Posted by SqlserverCode (165 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What consumers need: a bill of rights
The problem we are facing is people like Sony feel we as consumers have no rights. They think they can arbitrarily dictate what we can or can't do with someting we own. The evil, is down to the EULA. Maybe there has always been a EULA of sorts and we never recognized it? Or maybe companies never tried to enforce it?

I agree with calls to boycot Sony, but remember Sony-BMG is a multitude of artists, lables, and sub labels. Will people boycott them all?

Personally, I think we need declare a bill of rights of what we expect, no, demand. I started one, hopefully something like this will pick up steam while the story is still in the public's eye:

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Posted by djhomeless (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another good idea
Why don't we all send Sony a little email every time we buy a piece of electronics, software, CD or DVD and tell them we elected not to buy the Sony brand, choosing another brand instead because we're still upset over the rootkit incident.
Let them actually see each time they lost a sale because of this. I would think it would be especially effective when the item purchased is something like a phone which has nothing to do with rootkits. Let them know that we don't trust them as a company in the whole and will avoid doing business with them on any level.

I have already sent them an email telling them of my intentions to avoid all Sony products. Let's keep the pressure up and let them see the effects of our boycott.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Boycott all Music CD Vendors
I have a read a lot good ideas here for trying to change Sonys practices. The thing you have to keep in mind is they aren't the only ones doing this. Consumers want true Redbook audio cd's. We don't want some strange HYBRID that plants "cloak dagger" applications on our computers and refuse to play in some of the older cd players. The only way to send that message is not to buy any CD's from any label this holiday season. Starting on black friday and continuing through the end of the year. That would send a clear message to all the music LABELS. At some point you've got to vote with your wallet. Loss of Money is the only thing these corporations understand.
Posted by Captain-Atari (80 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How can you help and I did
I managage a small network of 60 PC's with an Intranet. All users know of Sony's breach of consumer trust and security recklessness. I took a new Sony CD / DVD player back to the retailer on Sunday. I have two Sony TV's and an Amp - the old Amp and 1 TV will be replaced before xmas but not with Sony. I have blank Sony media, CD's DVD's floppies - never to be purchased again. I also consult for other small busness and home consumers - 2 have been disuaded from buying Sony Vaio PC's.

And still the infected CD's stay on the Retailers Shelves
Posted by coisa (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Macs are not affected
Apple computer would not allow Sony and First 4 Internet to write the DRM software to run on a Mac. The music CDs in question will not play on a Macintosh computer. Apple knew that the DRM software would compromise the Mac operating system and would not allow them to write the software.

One of the biggest differences between a Mac and a PC is Apple will not allow just anyone to write programs for a Mac. Apple has to test and approve every program before they will allow it to be installed.
If Apple had allowed Sony and First 4 Internet to write the DRM software for Macs, right now every Mac user would not only be pointing a finger at Sony, but also at Apple for allowing Sony and First 4 Internet to write a program that damaged their computer.

If Sony and First 4 Internet had went ahead and wrote the software anyway Apple would sue them for copyright infringement for writing software for the Macintosh that is not licensed by Apple

A PC on the other hand, anyone with C++ and a compiler can write code and it will install on a PC.

BTW This is not a biased opinion I do not own a Mac and have never used one!

but three cheers for Apple anyway!
Posted by rond36 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Cd's from anyone with copy protection
I will not buy any CD's from any company or music club who uses or supports copy protection in any form anymore. I was a member of BMG but they just lost my biz...and if Columbia house starts they will lose a customer also.

And I bet they scratch their butt wondering why people go for the free downloads... Lets hear it Homer! DOH
Posted by nnjdonny (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lets set an Example
Don't buy Sony anything..and let the other retailers take notice if they do something like this it will cost them big bucks.
Posted by nnjdonny (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Class action suit
The law suits should include anyone who has bought any of these CD's - The company should be held responsible for any and all damage to any computer anywhere as a result of their stupity in obtaining and using this program. If I did I'd be broke. If Sony goes out of biz as a result so be it. I'm sure if it was me no one would care.
Of course George Bush and friends will probable bail em out.
Posted by nnjdonny (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it does among others lawsuits
anyone who bought a music CD from the US can join the new york federal lawsuit
Posted by darkr (97 comments )
Link Flag

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