Copy Controls: How Far Will They Go?
Robert McMillan, IDG News ServiceFri Dec 30, 4:00 AM ET

After the firestorm kicked off by Sony's use of rootkit cloaking technology
in CDs to prevent piracy, you might think other media firms would never
consider such intrusive methods. But some observers believe the controversy
may just lead studios to push for anticopying measures that are hard-wired
into your system.

This conflict between users who want to control what goes on inside their
PCs and media companies that want to protect their content is not likely to
abate so long as the companies try to control CD copying, says Gartner
research director Mike McGuire.

Since studios are unlikely to give up copy protection, he believes music
firms may now redouble their efforts to get companies like Microsoft and
Intel to build copy protection right into computers.

Meanwhile, if studios persist in using technology like XCP, then PC and
device makers may turn hostile toward such media firms'
interests--especially if PC vendors end up fielding more support calls due
to buggy copy-protection software, McGuire says.

Sony is reviewing its copy-protection tactics (the company declined to
comment for this story). But "there will be copy protection," says Helene
Blue, president of Helene Blue Musique, an independent music publisher.
Sony's big mistake was bringing out XCP without sufficient testing, Blue
says, a mistake the firm seems unlikely to repeat after its embarrassment
over XCP.

Mark Russinovich, chief software architect with Winternals Software LP, took
a hard look at XPC (created by First 4 Internet, a British firm) after
playing a Sony XPC CD on his machine and encountering problems. He found
that Sony's digital rights management scheme not only used technology
typically employed by hackers, but it was designed in such a way that virus
writers could hide their software with it, he says; he drew attention to the
matter on his blog. His prediction came true--Trojan horse programs
exploiting XCP began appearing on the Net soon after the problem was

Several security programs now treat Sony's XCP as a threat, and the firm has
recalled all XCP CDs. MediaMax, another CD copy protection program used by
Sony, has its own security problems. It can create a hole through which
malicious agents can access affected Windows PCs. To protect themselves,
Sony advises users to patch the software. Sony also faces both a lawsuit
brought by the Texas Attorney General and another filed by the Electronic
Frontier Foundation over XCP.

Russinovich worries that we will still end up with invasive copy protection
that runs roughshod over PCs, bogging down performance. "What I'm afraid of
is that, after this is all said and done, the software is going to still be
aggressive, and they'll just cover themselves by putting disclosure in the
EULA [end user license agreement]," he says.
Is XCP Running on Your System?

To find out if Sony's invasive DRM software is in your PC, Mark Russinovich
advises users to choose Run from the Start menu, then type the following
into the box that appears: cmd /k sc query $sys$aries. If the response is
'STATE: 4 RUNNING', you have the software. If you see, instead, 'The
specified service does not exist as an installed service,' then you're
clean. (Note that only Windows systems are vulnerable.)

Security tools such as Symantec's Norton AntiVirus, McAfee VirusScan, and
Microsoft's AntiSpyware beta can remove XCP from your PC. Sony issued its
own XCP uninstaller but pulled it because of security holes. The company has
promised to provide another one; click here for its status (a complete list
of XPC CDs is available here). The Rootkit Survival instructions posted on
the Freedom to Tinker Blogcan also provide more help.

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