Dismal Atttempts of Sony™


For some reason or another the once great company, Sony™, has made numerous errors in the past year that have drawn bad publicity to itself.

Could this have something to do with the change of leadership leaving the company for the first time in the hands of an outsider?

These taboos are:

  • Sony™ allowed Apple Computers to take over the portable music player market that Sony™ created, many years ago, with the invention of the Walkman® line of products
  • The Sony™ PSP® firmware upgrade v1.20 for some reason did not work for US versions of the PSP® for many months, while Japanese version of the PSP® did
  • Fail portable audio player that only plays Sony™ proprietary format ATRAC3. It is not until major uproar from the public that Sony™ portable audio players recently, few months ago, began supporting the more popular MP3 format
  • Sony™ made the White version of the Sony™ PSP® not 100% compatible with all PSP® games
  • Sony™ forcing everyone to buy movies on UMD media, which only the Sony™ PSP® plays (as of November 2005). This was not resolve until hackers were able to make movies playable via the Memory Stick Duo
  • Sony™ was upset with Apple Computers and did not want to release its content to iTunes Music Store Japan. So Apple went ahead with the launch without them and in 4 days became the most popular legal music download site in Japan. There were even Sony™ signed artists who did not agree with Sony™ decision, and started a group just to help artists list their song on iTunes Music Store Japan. In the end Sony™ backed down and decided to work with Apple Computers.

Now the most recent and most embarrassing decision was Sony BMG shipping a DRM (Digital Rights Management) software in its SACD (Super Audio CD), called XCP created by First 4 Internet Ltd..

In many cases these CDs are just marked as having better audio or additional free content. To identify if you have one of these Sony BMG CD, you need to look at the small print on the back of the CD jewel, it should say “cp.sonybmg.com/xcp”.

Normally these taboos only affected my Windows friends, but this time my Macintosh friends also need to be aware of this. Yes, the Mac OS X is included among all flavors of Windows (98SE, ME, 2000 SP4 and XP) OS (Operating System) that this DRM has installers for.

Why is all the concern you say? Well the fact that manufacture is putting DRM in media is a concern in itself, but I will not get into the debate of that in this submission.

What the XCP DRM does is to install itself onto the target computer system after the user places the Sony BMG audio CD into their computer. In most cases after the CD is placed into the system it will try to play it. When it does an EULA (End User License Agreement) is presented to the user. If the user refuses the license it quits and do not do anything, but you will not be able to read the audio CD from your computer.

If the user agrees to the software license the XCP DRM will be installed and then it hides all traces of Sony™ DRM software from the OS, making it impossible for any virus detector to find or to uninstall.

You may say, so far that’s no big deal, but what the XCP DRM has is what the software industry called “RootKit“. This RootKit in itself is not a virus per say, contrary to what NBC News is calling it, but I guess, as the saying goes, good news is not news, by calling this a Virus is becomes news.

To a layman, one may not be worry yet. Let me explain further or you can read more about RootKit yourself.

What the XCP RootKit is doing is “calling home” to Sony™ servers telling them which album and particularly which song you are listening to and when. You may say this is an invasion of privacy, but still no big deal. Well the fact that the XCP RootKit hides itself and all Sony&trade software from the OS is a big deal.

Any hacker can now relies on this XCP RootKit that Sony™ had forced its customer to install. In affect, Sony™ has created a Trojan opportunity for the hackers to do whatever they want with the malware and no Anti-Virus software will be able to locate it or even know of its presence.

Since the release of these Sony BMG CDs worldwide, there is already one virus created to take advantage of this Trojan opportunity; fortunately for my Macintosh friends, this is a Windows only virus. I will not point out the virus to avoid promoting it further than it deserves.

Here is a step by step documentation by Mark Russinovich, of the steps that Sony BMG makes you go through before allowing you to download the uninstaller.

Sony BMG has since recalled all the unsold CD with the XCP DRM and announced that they will “temporary” not ship any more CD with the XCP DRM software.

Although, government agencies from respective countries including Japan, Italy, UK and USA are going to start criminal investigation on Sony BMG.

There are already two famous law firms specialized in Class Action Sue who will be filing sues against Sony BMG.

The lesson to take away for my readers, do not install anything that a CD ask you to if you’re not sure what it is. Ask someone whom you trust to know what it is for.

As for Sony™, you really need to consider the advisors who are advising the management within the Sony™ empire. It seems like incompetence is not restricted to any one Sony™ company.

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