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Sony rootkit DRM to spark copycat viruses

By Matt Whipp

Posted on 2 Nov 2005 at 14:53

Security company F-Secure says it is expecting to see viruses exploiting the rootkit technology used in Sony's DRM software

Security company F-Secure says it is expecting to see viruses exploiting the rootkit technology used in Sony's DRM software anytime now.

F-Secure's Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen said that the company was already in discussions with Sony before the news broke on Monday, but because of the huge security risks that this information poses those talks were behind closed doors.

'We didn't go public with the info at the time as we were worried with the implications (especially with the info on how outsiders can hide files which have names starting with "$sys$"),' he said. 'We're waiting for the first virus which uses filenames like that.'

The DRM software included on some SonyBMG CDs installs a rootkit alongside the player software that cannot be removed by the user. The rootkit hides all files within it and, because of the way it was developed, places no restrictions on what files it conceals. Any file with a name starting $sys$ will be cloaked by the rootkit - a tantalising prospect for virus writers, as most antivirus systems will not detect code concealed in this way.

However it may be that the issue is spread wider than Sony. Hyppönen mentioned 'some DRM systems' when reporting the issue in the F-Secure blog. 'We're hearing rumours from Sony that Universal is using the same system on some of their audio CDs,' he said. There have also been reports that EMI use technology. Sony has been the only publisher to date to use the DRM code commercially, while with the other labels it may be limited to pre-release material, which at least limits the scale of the problem.

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