Thursday, November 03, 2005


Mark Russinovich was having a little sweep of his compter system to see what rubbish had been poked into holes by virus writers and malware, and was surprised to discover that Sony-BMG had been using nasties to bugger his machine. Yes, Sony-BMG.

Their "copy-protected" CDs had, he discovered, installed junk on his PC (without asking); what's worse, if you tried to remove it, it breaks your PC:

What makes Sony's CD digital media software particularly nasty is that using expert tools for removing the parasite risks leaving you with a Windows PC that's useless, and that requires a full reformat and reinstall.

Now, installing anything on a PC without asking the owner first is, in our books, unacceptable behaviour; installing something that renders your system unusable for any purpose is just going way beyond what you'd expect a CD to do.

Oh, and because the software is so clumsily written, it also offers the potential to open a door for anyone else to sneak crap past the limping Windows security guards. It hasn't happened yet, we should stress, but it could. We don't want to get too "bird flu will kill us all" - this is more like a kid playing with a box of matches who needs telling "never, never do this again" rather than a full-on arson attack.

Sony-BMG have responded by offering a patch - yes, a patch. You have download patches because Sony have sold you a broken CD and then broken your computer. Oh, but the patch doesn't remove the virus-style software - it just stops it being invisible.

Anti malware company F-Secure are so worried by the potential of Sony's code to screw up your machine that they suggest you don't use their cleaning programs, but instead contact Sony directly.

There's nothing on Sony's website about any of this (not that you can find that easily) - showing how little the company is really bothered about this. We're trying to get hold of a list of the CDs with this copy protection thing on it, and suggest that you might want to, too - finding an email address which doesn't come straight back at you at Sony is tricky, but doesn't bounce (probably just gets sent straight to trash, but in the absence of any other assistance, it's worth trying.)