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Roughs In The Diamond

Just bought that new Neil Diamond CD? Popped it into your computer to have a listen? Guess what? You're screwed. You've now got malicious software deeply embedded on your computer that hijacks your own CD and DVD drives, prevents you from transferring your purchased music to your iPod, and also makes your computer vulnerable to viruses and hackers! And it's even hidden from your processor, so good luck getting rid of it! All thanks to Sony BMG!

This week, Sony BMG admitted to placing secret software on the majority of their new music CD releases. Once installed, the Sony software can relay data, which indicates which CDs are being played to an outside server. Nice! This nasty software was discovered recently by Mark Russinovich, a computer security specialist/blogger who found out that a recently purchased CD (Van Zant: Get Right With The Man) from Sony music not only installed DRM software (digital rights management, to limit and outright prevent copying music to certain devices), but it did so in such a sneaky way that it hid itself entirely from Windows, and opened the system up to security issues such as viruses and hackers.

The Collector's Version

The copyright protection program - called XCP - when installed, hijacks your computer and installs custom software which:

1) Hides itself entirely from Windows by installing as a rootkit
2) Hides itself in such a manner that any files begining with $sys$ are also hidden. For example, if you install the XCP copy protection software on your machine, and rename "document.doc" to "$sys$document.doc" it then becomes invivisble to you forever.
3) Installs its own custom CD-ROM drivers to hijack your system. It also sneakily names these drivers "Plug and Play Device Manager" to seem as if it's a part of Windows. Trying to delete these drivers manually will disable your CD-ROM drive entirely.
4) Offers no uninstall option until you manually contact Sony

In addition to all of those lovely selling points, the software allows for virus and hacker vulnerability. Sony has been selling these tainted CDs for the past 8 months, and would've continued indefinitely, had it not been for the computer security specialist who bought the Van Zant CD. Thank the Lord for computer geeks!

Buyer Beware!

Sony finally reported that over the past eight months it shipped more than 4.7 million CDs with the so-called XCP copy protection. What was intended as copy-protection software that prevents the CD purchaser from making multiple copies of the CD they purchased with their very own hard-earned money, suddenly has become a deeply-embedded program that allows hackers access to the computer files. Sony quickly began back-peddling their evil intentions by releasing a software-removal uninstall tool designed to uninstall the copy-protection software deposited by Sony's CDs which in fact actually exposed a critical vulnerability on computers.

The tool downloaded a program that causes a user's hard drive to accept instructions from Web sites. But the program remained active on the user's hard drive after it had been instructed to uninstall the Sony software. The program could then be triggered by almost any code from any Web site, including malicious instructions. This would allow any web page to seize control of your computer then it can do anything it likes. Thank you, Sony BMG!

For The First 5000 Only!

At the time of discovery (or when Sony finally admitted doing this) more than 2 million of the Sony discs had been sold. Sony was quick to note that the copy-protection software is not activated on an ordinary CD or DVD player, or on a Macintosh computer. It only screws up Windows-based PCs. Thank you, Sony BMG!

UPDATE: Sony has finally release a complete list (hopefully, anyway) of the infected CDs. You can view the list here.

If you've fallen victim to the Sony marketplan, here's a very helpful, if not very confusing site to help you regain control of your computer. Keep scrolling down the long-ass page to read horror story after horror story from those already victimized.

Nice going, Sony BMG Music! Santa knows who's been naughty, you know!

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