• United States



by Paul Kerstein

Sony Stops Shipping Controversial DRM Code

Nov 14, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

One day after hackers released malicious software that usedcontroversial Sony BMG Music Entertainment copy-protection software toattack computers, Sony has decided to stop shipping the product, thecompany said Friday.

Sony has temporarily suspended the manufacture of CDs that contain thesoftware, called XCP, (Extended Copy Protection) said John McKay, aSony spokesman.

McKay did not say when Sony planned to resume the use of XCP, but XCP’sdevelopers have previously stated that they are in the process ofwriting new copy protection software that does not use the samecontroversial cloaking techniques that have stirred up bad so muchpublicity for Sony.

XCP was developed for Sony by U.K. software vendor First 4 InternetLtd. It has been shipping since early 2005, and is included on about 20of Sony music titles, including country music duo Van Zant’s “Get Rightwith the Man.” It is designed to limit the number of copies that CDowners can make of their music.

The software first popped into the public eye two weeks ago when aWindows operating system expert named Mark Russinovich described howXCP used “rootkit” cloaking techniques to hide itself on his computer.( At the time, Russinovich describedthe software as “digital rights management gone too far,” andcriticized it for not warning users that it would become virtuallyundetectable and extremely difficult to remove.

Rootkit software uses a variety of techniques to gain access to asystem and then cover up any traces of its existence so that it cannotbe detected by system tools or antivirus software. Russinovich andother computer experts were concerned that hackers might somehow useXCP’s cloaking ability to hide their software from antivirus products.

That prediction came true Thursday when the first variations of amalicious ’Trojan’ program that exploited the XCP software begancirculating on the Internet. Trojans are malicious programs similar toviruses that often appear to be legitimate software.

One of these Trojan programs, called Stinx-E, masquerades as a photosent from a U.K. Business magazine, security vendor Sophos PLC said ina statement. Once clicked on, the malicious software uses Sony’srootkit techniques to hide itself on the system, Sophos said.

By Robert McMillan – IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)