Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reason #2,462 not to run Windows

Sony has decided that it is appropriate to install software on your computer to track the playing of their CDs, prevent you from copying their music, etc., without asking of course. And it gets better...

From a Boston Globe story:
But Computer Associates said the antipirating software also secretly communicates with Sony over the Internet when listeners play the discs on computers that have an Internet connection. The software uses this connection to transmit the name of the CD being played to an office of Sony's music division in Cary, N.C. The software also transmits the IP address of the listener's computer, Computer Associates said, but not the name of the listener. But Sony can still use the data to create a profile of a listener's music collection, according to Computer Associates.


''If you choose to let people know what you're listening to, that's your business. If they do it without your permission, it's an invasion of privacy."

Sony and the British firm that wrote the antipirating code for the music company flatly denied the software snoops on listeners.

And it still gets better.
When he tried to remove it, Russinovich found that the program lacked the ''uninstall" feature found in most Windows software. Indeed, key components of the software hid themselves deep in his computer by applying the same techniques used by data thieves to conceal their activities. Even a skilled user who identifies the correct files can't safely remove them, said Russinovich.

''Most users that stumble across the cloaked files . . . will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files," he wrote on his technology website, SysInternals.

Computer Associates yesterday concurred with Russinovich's assessment. Curry said Sony has made it so difficult for listeners to uninstall its software that some could lose all their data in the process.

''It can damage the operating system and the operating system's integrity, so it can't reboot at all," Curry said. ''As an expert in security, I can say this is bad behavior."

Sony has now posted a program which will remove the software, while still denying that CA's description of it as spyware is accurate.

I have had many occasions to work with CA over the years. I have read many statements and documents they have produced that are in areas of technology I know very well. I have sometimes disagreed with their assessments. Rational and honest people do that sometimes. I have never known their technologists to blatantly lie about something like this. I have never known them to screw up so badly that they announce that software sends information over the network when it didn't.

I also find it interesting that the company that wrote the software is titled "First 4 Internet Ltd." It may not mean anything but you have to admit it is a little ironic. I not only have never worked with them, I had never heard of them.

I can't prove who is telling the lie here but I can tell you two things.

1. I don't believe the liar is CA. I can't prove it, just my opinion.
2. I will not be buying any Sony CDs for a while, and as you all know I don't run Windows.

Update: Not surprisingly, Richi learned of this outrage before I did and wrote about it at ComputerWorld. Must win lottery so I can have the time to read more.


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