Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sony's rootkit

Okay, if you haven't heard about Sony's Rootkit, well, you really should, especially if you buy CDs and play them in your computer.

Right now, you're like "rootkit"? WTF is anton talkin' aboot? Well, wikipedia to the rescue:
A rootkit is a set of software tools frequently used by a third party (usually an intruder) after gaining access to a computer system. These tools are intended to conceal running processes, files or system data, which helps an intruder maintain access to a system without the user's knowledge.
So basically a rootkit is what hackers use to make sure that you can't tell that your system has been messed with. Anyway, this is a really interesting story (to me, at least), and here's a timeline to accompany this, though I will paraphrase here.

So first, it comes to light that Sony has been putting this software that tinkers with Windows (and the MacOS) on your computer. The online digital-rights community goes into conniptions. Sony says, "oh, here's some software that will get rid of it for you". Or not. It actually just removes a couple of the files, and probably adds more. An attorney from the EFF actually reads the EULA and discovers that:
1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That's because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to "enforce their rights" against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this "self help" crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That's right, no matter what happens, you can't even get back what you paid for the CD.

7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.
Also, this rootkit that Sony installs sends data back to Sony, which at first they denied, then they said, "oh, we don't even look at that data" - and I don't believe them one bit.

Then, it comes to light that Sony's uninstaller actually leaves your computer more vulnerable than before - one guy made his computer reboot just by loading certain HTML in a webpage. The most recent development is that some of the code that Sony has included is actually a part of LAME, an mp3 encoding technology which is licensed under the LGPL.

So in a nutshell, Sony will install software on your computer without your knowledge, exposing your computer to hackers, AND it allows Sony to get lots of info from your computer. Sony's uninstaller for this software opens up MORE security holes for hackers. They've denied every allegation every step of the way, so it's not like they're fessin' up over this. So if you want to buy one of these CDs, my recommendation is to purchase it through iTunes, or just go old-school and pirate it - it's safer that way.

Oh, and I'll reiterate this call to boycott Sony's products, which is pretty easy for me since I never really bought that many Sony products in the FIRST place, but don't forget this call to boycott includes the PS3, nerds.

UPDATE: So far, the number of infected networks is well over 500,000, and that includes plenty of government and military networks.

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