Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sony hacking into people's computers

A few days ago, an article came across SlashDot about someone finding a rootkit on their computer. A rootkit is a set of programs hidden on your computer to give someone else the ability to stealthily do whatever they want without your permission. Rootkits are normally used by hackers and virus writers. The discoverer, Mark Russinovich at, traced the rootkit back to a Sony Music CD he had listened to. The rootkit was installed as part of Sony's DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology to prevent unauthorized copying of their CD.

Since then, news of the Sony rootkit has spread, including articles in PC Magazine and CNET

What's the big deal? In the short term, this particular DRM rootkit replaces some Windows drivers with its own and hides any file beginning with the text $sys$. This makes an easy way for hackers to hide their own malicious programs on the computer. Plus, if any bugs or security issues are found in the Sony DRM rootkit, they can be exploited and there's really no hope of updates to fix them. In the long term, are we really ready to hand over complete control of our own computers to a multi-national giant, in exchange for permission to listen to some lousy music?

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