By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
9th November 2005
The President of Sony BMG's global digital business division Thomas
Hesse has weighed into the storm over the 'rootkit'-style copy
restriction software introduced on some recent audio CDs.
Sony's software installs itself by stealth, conceals itself, then
intercepts low level Windows systems calls. Removing it causes the CD
drive to be rendered inoperable. The only cure is to reformat the disk
and reinstall Windows.
What responsibility did Hesse feel for the havoc his CDs had caused?
"Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why
should they care about it?" he huffed.
I think we can take that as: "No responsibility at all."
(Hesse made his comments on NPR radio on Friday - you can hear them
here, 1m:50s  into the short report.)
But IT departments beg to differ.
A support manager at an IT department in a medium sized corporation
told us that a CD-borne infection of Sony DRM is already causing his
A major antivirus vendor diagnosed the problem as a nasty case of DRM,
he told us, but the problem didn't end there. The Sony 'root kit'
causes the antivirus software to go haywire, popping up alerts at the
rate of one a second.
Three systems have so far been flattened, he said. The original
culprit was a Van Zant CD - from Sony BMG.
And it gets worse.
On Sunday Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals.com, whose forensics last
week identified the DRM as a 'rootkit' style infection, has been
taking a look at the patch subsequently issued by First4Internet, the
British company which wrote the crippleware.
All the patch does is force XP to issue Windows commands (eg, "net
stop") that disable the driver. Because XP is a multithreaded OS, this
is a brute force procedure that can cause the system to crash if
resources are in contention.
Russinovich also notes that the Sony DRM software still contains
vulnerabilities that expose a system to a potential blue screen of
death. Instead of exiting gracefully and returning standard Windows
system errors, the DRM exits disgracefully.
Which, we suggest, is exactly what Sony's Herr Hesse should be
considering right now.
Have you had problems with Sony in your IT support department? Write
and let us know. =AE
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