By John Borland
December 6, 2005
Sony BMG Music Entertainment and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
digital rights group jointly announced Tuesday that they had found,
and fixed, a new computer security risk associated with some of the
record label's CDs.
The danger is associated with copy-protection software included on
some Sony discs created by a company called SunnComm Technologies. The
vulnerability could allow malicious programmers to gain control of
computers that have run the software, which is typically installed
automatically when a disc is put in a computer's CD drive.
The issue affects a different set of CDs than the ones involved in the
copy-protection gaffe that led Sony to recall 4.7 million CDs last
month, and which has triggered several lawsuits against the record
"We're pleased that Sony BMG responded quickly and responsibly when we
drew their attention to this security problem," EFF staff attorney
Kurt Opsahl said in a statement. "Consumers should take immediate
steps to protect their computers."
The announcement is the latest result of the detailed scrutiny applied
by the technical community to Sony's copy-protected discs, after a
string of serious security issues were found to be associated with the
label's antipiracy efforts.
The record label's copy-protected discs have been on the market for
more than eight months. But in late October, blogger Mark Russinovich
discovered that they surreptitiously installed a "rootkit" programming
tool. Rootkit tools are typically used by hackers to hide viruses on
hard drives, so Sony's move opened up a potentially serious security
The controversy escalated as other researchers discovered new security
flaws associated with the copy-protected CDs, which used technology
from British company First 4 Internet. Virus writers began
distributing malicious code that took advantage of the holes. The
label recalled all the discs with the First 4 Internet technology
installed, offering an exchange program for consumers who had
purchased any of the 52 CDs affected.
Following those revelations, the EFF asked computer security company
iSec Partners to study the SunnComm copy protection technology, which
Sony said has been distributed with 27 of its CDs in the United
States. iSec found the hole announced Tuesday and notified Sony, but
news of the risk was not released until SunnComm had created a patch.
Sony said another security company, NGS Software, has tested the patch
and certified that it addresses the vulnerability.
The patch can be downloaded from Sony's site. A list of the CDs
affected in the United States, and a slightly different list in
Canada, is also posted on the site.
Sony said it will notify customers though a banner advertisement
directly in the SunnComm software, as well as through an Internet
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