August 31, 2007 5:49 AM PDT

Sony pleads innocent in latest rootkit fiasco

Sony says the rootkit-like behavior of a device driver used to run its biometric Micro Vault USM-F thumb drive was unintentional.

Sony Sweden spokesman Fredrik Fagerstedt told local press this week that sometimes even actions undertaken with "good will" can go wrong.

Fagerstedt's comments came the same day that antivirus firm McAfee joined the growing chorus of companies criticizing Sony for compromising its customers' security. The Micro Vault drive is a USB device featuring fingerprint-reading software intended to add an extra layer of security for PC users. The software needed to be installed on the PC for the USB to work contains the rootkit technology.

The criticism is reminiscent of that directed at Sony BMG Music Entertainment in November 2005, when a programmer revealed that a technique designed to cloak the company's copy-protection software for music CDs also could be used by virus writers to hide malicious software.

McAfee reported that Taiwan's FineArt Technology, which makes encryption software for PCs and laptops, was responsible for creating the offending USB software.

"The authors apparently did not keep the security implications in mind" when designing the installation method, McAfee security specialists Aditya Kapoor and Seth Purdy wrote in a blog.

Kapoor and Purdy cataloged the incident as one of the worst examples of "nasty rootkits that use blended techniques to hide or protect themselves."

Echoing concerns expressed by another security specialist, F-Secure's Patrik Runald, the McAfee bloggers said the default installation path does nothing to stop malicious-software authors from copying code to a directory of their choice and executing it in that location.

They added that another easy hack for malicious-software authors would be to launch code from their chosen directory and add a start-up entry for the software to ensure it is hidden immediately as the PC boots up.

Sony Australia has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Liam Tung of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

See more CNET content tagged:
rootkit, McAfee Inc., author, Sony Corp., device driver


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Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice - that's not going to happen.

After Sony's first rootkit gambit I swore off all their products. No music, no electronics, no Sony period.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I didn't get burned the first time
because I just don't listen to enough music that I bought a new enough CD that would have it on it. I didn't get burned this time because I wouldn't consider Sony my first choice if I wanted another flash drive, although I probably should get a larger one. But now I know not to buy any Sony products that could ever come in contact with my PC, even indirectly. That means, not CDs, no computer caponents, and even no DVD recorders for my TV. Its products aren't worth the risk and the hasle.
Posted by aka_tripleB (2211 comments )
Link Flag
Blah, blah, blah...
What do you expect Sony would say?

The thing is that Sony is more interested in protecting its own interest than ANYTHING related to its customers.

It will gladly open your machine up to hackers, if that better protects its copyrights and limits your fair use to their product.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its a security application, of course it will have some rootkit behavior. If it didn't, then it would be easy to subvert.
Posted by worsethannormal (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SecuROM on Bioshock
SecuROM, owned by Sony, has caused another related fiasco:

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Posted by ElmoKajaky (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bioshock: hyping a false story again and again
That has been debunked so often; pls. read the related Wikipedia or Ars Technica articles instead of tarnishing a product's reputation.
Posted by Rants&Raves (199 comments )
Link Flag
cheaper, better, why bother with Sony?
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How true!!! Add Lexar to the list, too.
Posted by PCTechGuy (10 comments )
Link Flag
I really have to wonder...
...when was the last time Sony did something right? I haven't heard any positive Sony-related news in a very long time.
Posted by Jortibereal (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Only one conclusion can be found!
It seems that Microsoft STILL ALLOWS root kits... if they didn't... then this wouldn't be a problem.

So why harp on Sony about it when Microsoft allows it?

Harp on Microsoft to stop such crap from being allowed in the first place and this wouldn't be the story it hopes to become!!!

Microsoft is the culprit... NOT Sony!

Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I disagree
The only windows I use on my pc is a vmware virtual machine that runs on my linux box, so I'm not exactly a MS fanboy.To blame Microsoft for this seems just a tad unreasonable.I think it's more likely the antivirus folks raising a red flag.
Posted by mariusthull (67 comments )
Link Flag
More FUD
FUD: "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt"

Well let's see, application whose job is to secure access to entire PC (fingerprint authentication device), should it stick all its files in some public place with "any" permissions so any 3-year-old can bypass it?

This hysteria about "rootkits" seems absurd. One wonders what else the antivirus companies are going to come up with to try to promote themselves. (or cry wolf because they are mistakenly detecting something as a "rootkit" that isn't a rootkit)

After all, we know that "FUD" is what keeps antivirus companies selling subscriptions, right?
Posted by pjk0 (1198 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"good will" ???
Sony Sweden spokesman Fredrik ********** thinks that root kits are "good will"?????? Heck, Sony's executives ethics are so messed up that soon nobody will want to do business with them. Who would trust them?
Posted by PCTechGuy (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does anyone trust Sony anymore?
Except PS3 fanboys
Posted by gubbord (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why keep buying Sony products?
Posted by greenstreak1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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