No More Sony CDs

rootkitI love Sony products. Other than my plasma TVs, both of which are Panasonic, I generally buy Sony electronics. My DVD players, my tube TVs, my digital camera- all Sonys.

But I will not buy another Sony BMG CD as long as they continue to put spyware-like DRM on their CDs. If that means forever, then forever it will be.

As Dwight Silverman and Download Squad reported today, Mark Russinovich at software developer Sysinternals discovered that a Sony CD installed a rootkit on his computer. A rootkit is way for someone to hide files and even programs on someone’s computer without their knowledge. It is a way for malicious spyware and other unwanted programs to hide on a computer.

The bottom line is that the Sony BMG CD appears to have installed a rootkit on Mark’s computer without his permission or knowledge, all in the name of limiting his ability to play (these CDs can only be played on a computer using the program that comes on the CD itself, not with Windows Media Player, etc.) and copy the music he paid for. A rootkit can be used by virus writers and other unauthorized interlopers to control a remote computer or steal or destroy the data on the computer. In other words, this is bad mojo that should have never been installed on his computer without his knowledge and informed consent.

To make bad matters worse, the software was difficult to uninstall- there was no uninstall utility (the “uninstall” option that usually appears either in Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs, or as an option in the program’s Start Menu folder. When Mark removed the software manually, it disabled his CD drive- making it totally unusable.

Howard Hoy, one of the readers of Dwight’s post, contacted Sony and asked for instructions on how to remove the wrongfully installed software. He was told to install a program made by the same company who created the rootkit for Sony- a program that could potentially do even more damage to his computer (Howard has a photo of the install screen here).

Here are my suggestions:

1) Boycott all copy protected music CDs. Most of them have a notice stating that the disc is sopy-protected. Amazon has started identifying CDs that are copy protected (as pointed out by Howard in a comment to Dwight’s post).

2) Disable autoplay on your computer.

The way to solve this growing problem is to create enough media buzz to perhaps get Congress involved and to vote with our pocketbooks. My pocketbook votes no.

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