Dean Bernard, clearly states that any software is a set of structured instructions which enable the computer user to communicate with the computer in an easy and efficient way. Software can be system software like the various types of operating systems like Windows, Linux and UNIX or application software like word processing suits like Microsoft word, lotus word perfect and open office (Bernard).
Kantor in his article clearly reveals that Sony BMG had planted a rootkit into customers computers in an effort to stop or curb CD piracy before the plan failed completely. This Sonny scandal was also a very good lesson to all the media companies on how to take care of their digital management strategies. Bernard explains that the rootkit involved the inclusion of extended copy protection as well as the Media Max CD-3 program on millions of compact disks from a good number of artists like Celine Dion, Santana and Neal.
A rootkit is simply defined as a set of programs which enable the administrative rights of a computer system or a network utility and mainly has the intent of doing harm to that computer. The only safe way to remove a root kit from a computer is to clean completely the hard drive and do a fresh and new install of the operating system (Brown).
Rootkits are malwares that allow computer hackers to cloak processes as well as files in a very effective and efficient way such that the computer user cannot trace them and their presence is not even recognizable.
These cloaking devices have the capabilities of hiding lines of code no matter the circumstances and intentions of the author of such lines of code. An imagination and ambition are the only limiting factors to the development of rootkits which are also known and classified as malwares.
Mitchell, clearly explains that a malware is simply a short form for malicious software which is mainly in the form of viruses, Trojan horses rootkits and worms. Malicious software are simply unwanted sets of programs which have the intent of attacking computer systems and cause harm to them. Malwares are specifically designed to modify the settings of a computer, to take charge of a network resource like the main server or steal information and send it back to the hacker. In their report, Mitchell state that the sonny rootkit was designed to modify the windows operating system in such a way that it could run in the computer without your knowledge or consent and at the same time act a spyware, sending information about you to the Sony Company. This method of compromising an operating system is known as cloaking and any effort to remove it from a computer it would just crush the entire operating system.
Sony officially announced the temporal discontinuation of the production of compact disks with this copy right protection scheme. The company offered to pull out the copy-protected compact disks from the various outlets and replace the customers CDs free of charge.
The main goal of this software was to keep record labels safe from Peer to peer file sharing networks commonly known as torrent sites (Roush). This was done mainly because a single user could just rip the music from a CD and upload the content to a peer to peer network and it would now be available for free download to the entire world (Brown). By using this copy protection feature, Sony hoped to maximize on the profits by using this method because if one wanted the CDs the only way to get them was to actually buy them as one would not be able to copy or try to get duplicate of the CDs or even try to download the content from a peer to peer site (Bernard).
It came to the light that sonny also intends to limit the playing of video games to only the machines it is bought for. This is particularly speculated to come with the play station three. This will prevent gamers from sharing games or one bringing a game to a neighbor for multiplayer instance. In a research in Seattle alone, it was identified that more than 500 000 were infected which was way more damage than the Sony company could repair overnight or in just a few weeks (Kantor).
The Sony rootkit now in not only home computers but also in servers, it simply meant that cooperate organizations as well as government agencies had serious security loop holes in their systems which could easily be entry points for computer hackers to compromise these systems or steal vital files or top secret government missions (Kantor).
The Sony company scandal was a good lesson to other media houses to take appropriate measures in the protection of their content which does not cause harm to innocent computer users. The damage done by this rootkit was in terms of millions of dollars which was hard to bear for the Sony Company.
Brown explain that the Sony rootkit was marketed as XCP-Aurora and was used n Sony discs to help in copy protection of the media. On an attempt to play the CD, it would give an end user license agreement prompt. If you click no it would immediately eject the disc from the drive.
Mitchell, upon the acceptance of the end user legal agreement, the rootkit would install inside the computer and the software would now become a permanent resident to your computer with the capabilities of making sure that one does not install software that has the capabilities of accessing the Sony CD contents through reproduction or ripping.
If one ever attempted to uninstall the rootkit, it would render their CD drive useless because of the instructions it has and the privileges it has to modify the registry settings. The rootkit also installs a device driver which installs a device driver which has the ability to intercept calls directed to the CD drive and at the same time checks whether any other process apart from the music player attempts to access the media. If such process is detected, the filter driver simply injects random noises to the media resulting to a series of random noises (Mitchell).
This rootkit still has a very strong capability of modifying the kind of information visible to the operating system. This means that it will run in the background, modify settings in the computer, access files and modify computer settings without even the operating system realizing that there is anything going on inside it. In an attempt to look for the rootkit inside the operating system, all the commercial software would fail to locate or even detect its presence.
Roush says that in as much as the Sony company tried its best to protect the users from further damage to their machines by providing a solution to remove the rootkit, the solution proved to be just another active threat to computer security as it automatically activated the active X control, an auto run feature on the web browsers making the computer susceptible to computer virus attacks as well as other malwares like Trojan horses and worms.
With the active-X control active, it meant that an attacker can just use his web page to pass out to a universal resource locator, URL leading to a secondary server where a malicious file can be downloaded and the computer readily accepts it as a legitimate piece of software which it then automatically installs into the system. Since system is now readily accessible by the attacker, he/she can run any form of code that he or she wants and at the same time access all the files in the computer currently if he or she does wish to (Roush).
Sony took the responsibility and owned up the mistake that the company did owing up to millions of users who were not only disappointed, but also had their computers open to many security issues and hacker attacks.
Reference in print
Mitchell, Dan. "The rootkit of all evil." New York Times (2005).
Reference in digital media
Roush, Wade. "Inside the spyware scandal." Technology Review (2006).
Bernard, Dean. "Different types of computer software." Street Directory (2007).
Brown, Bob. "Shocking rootkit revelation." Network World (2010).
Kantor, Andrew. "The rootkit of all evil. Cyberspeak (2005).
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