Sony's Rootkit Creates a Legal Fiasco

As if Celine Dion's voice wasn't bad enough, one of her albums poses a major security threat to computer users. When inserted in a PC, the CD installs an insidious piece of software known as a rootkit--an application that hackers typically use to implant viruses and trojans on victims' computers.

What's strange is that Sony BMG, the album's label, purposefully included the software, known as XCP, on nearly 20 of its titles. Developed by U.K.-based First 4 Internet, XCP does in fact protect CDs from illegal duplication. It disables the users ability to burn multiple copies of protected CDs and tracks users listening habits. However, it also enables Sony to secretly collect information about a computer user, opens a backdoor for hackers, can disable a computer's CD-ROM drive and causes a computer's hard drive to burnout in one-third of its normal lifespan.

Despite Sony's legal troubles, the music and movie industries will still seek ways to use the powerful technology of the rootkit to protect their IP. As rootkit technology becomes more prevalent, companies need to take action to ensure that their computers do not become susceptible to the software's unintended effects.

Computer Rules

Technology Editor

Keith Ecker

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