Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Rootkits: the latest in DRM from Sony

It's more than enough work trying to keep up with all the viruses, adware, and malware floating around the internet. I've spent many, many hours cleaning systems of that crap, and I'm sure I will spend many more in the years to come. It doesn't help when Sony contributes to the problem.

Some newer CDs from Sony BMG contain an antipiracy application that must be installed in order to play the CD on your Windows PC. Should the unwary consumer say "yes" to the license agreement, the application implants hooks into the Windows kernel to make sure you don't use the CD in a manner Sony doesn't approve of. Those hooks are undetectable unless you know exactly what you're looking for, and are all but impossible to uninstall apart from contacting Sony and requesting removal. Attempting to remove the software yourself will leave you with a nonfunctional CD-ROM drive. Heaven help you if you're running a beta of Vista. Sony's application will utterly hose your Vista install. What's even more infuriating is that Sony's rootkit provides a means of entry for other hackers to compromise your system (assuming they are able to gain access). All they have to do is use the same naming convention Sony's software uses. And even if your system is never compromised, you still have a process you didn't ask for taking up CPU cycles—1 to 2 percent even when your PC is otherwise idle.

So not only does Sony toss this little radioactive nugget into your Windows system, they also leave you vulnerable to any number of exploiters who can't wait to piggy-back onto Sony's useless DRM and fuck up your computer even more. The lengths they will go to 'protect' their product includes not giving a damn about your own stuff. Look, I think the whole concept of copy-protection in this day and age is laughable, if not completely ridiculous. If somebody wants that CD, or that movie, or that game, or that software bad enough, they'll find a way to get it. It doesn't matter how much copy-protection you throw at them - it will still get cracked, patched, and bypassed. Meanwhile, the vast majority of consumers could give a shit about all that; they just want the content they paid for, and they don't want it fucking up their computer, or forcing them to insert a CD every time, or purchasing all-new equipment every 18 months. That vast majority also has no idea how to get cracks, and very little interest in getting them, so how much 'profit' are these companies really protecting?

It's all about control. The concept of millions of people freely exchanging ideas, opinions, and copyright-protected material scares the shit out of these people, and not just because of all the 'lost' revenue. This issue strikes at the heart of the conflict between the corporate world and everyone else - they want control over what we do, where we do it, and how we do it. Anything less is unacceptable to them. They prefer for us to be spineless, unquestioning sheep who will do what we're told without causing a fuss. Of course, if they actually got what they wanted, our whole society would collapse in a matter of weeks, but that's the thing about the rich - they're not much for thinking about anything else beyond the bottom line.

In the meantime, I will continue to allow music companies to kiss my ass, while I support my favorite artists by attending their concerts. And as for Sony, they're not getting any more of my money. I'm sure they won't miss it.


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