Posted by Virus Bulletin on Jan 14, 2003
RIAA allegedly buying worms to stop P2P piracy
It would appear Gobbles Security has done it again, only this time under the guidance of everyone's favourite dark corporation, the RIAA. Before going into details, an unnamed security consultant had this to say about the group: 'They're real, and they're damn good. They have made what appeared to be extremely exaggerated claims in the past, and when mocked, they have demonstrated that they are serious.'
Gobbles has claimed to have created and released a worm that exploits vulnerabilities in several popular MP3 players to infect P2P software, and which has now infected '95% of all p2p-participating hosts'. The worm catalogues media on the target's machine, and reports it back to the RIAA. When another user of a P2P network attempts to download a file from an infected machine, the worm fingerprints it, decides on the best way to exploit it, and sends back a Trojanised file which, when played, will infect the downloader. Furthermore, Gobbles claims to be building its own distributed denial of service network using similar techniques.
So, is it true? It does seem a little unlikely that the RIAA would open itself up for possible legal action like this, although one could also consider the Berman Bill (discussed below). Hacktivismo, a group backed by the Cult of The Dead Cow, think it's unlikely, 'especially considering that many of [Gobbles'] posts contain similiar such joking claims - like the last one, a claim he was working with iDefense (he wasn't).' Here at Virus Bulletin, we're still undecided but, for the sake of argument, let's consider for a moment it is...
So what would this mean for the anti-virus community? First, it'll be interesting to see how the RIAA responds to this - will it flat out deny it, or say nothing? If Gobbles' claims are shown to be true, and the RIAA is shown to be implicated, will it be liable for legal action? Finally, (again, assuming the claims are true) which anti-virus vendor will be the first to detect this?
At the time of writing, no comment is available on the RIAA website. Considering the condemnation they'd be likely to receive, it seems unlikely that they would admit to this straight off.
Would they be liable if it is true? Well, perhaps. Howard Berman's 'P2P Piracy Prevention' bill would effectively legitimise these actions. However, although he is expected to reintroduce it in this Congressional session, the bill has not yet passed.
Which AV vendor would be the first to detect the worm? Well, if it is backed by the RIAA, perhaps none of them. H+BEDV recently got into trouble for detecting 'cost- incurring [read as 'porn'] dialers as viruses' under German competition law. Symantec's website states that they don't detect spyware or adware, as 'while they may be objectionable, [they] are not malicious', and 'detecting them only leads to unnecessary virus alerts which could cause you to believe that you have run or received a dangerous program when you have not', which sounds like a semi-plausible excuse to avoid a potential legal mine-field. At VB2002, Sophos's Graham Cluley discussed eBugs such as the FBI's 'Magic Lantern', and questioned whether AV vendors should detect them - he was able to find few reasons not to detect them, so perhaps Sophos will be forthcoming in identities.
Normally this would be the point to end with a sarcastic and caustic comment regarding Gobbles Security. However, by taking both the moral high-ground ('the hard-working artists who p2p technology rapes, and the RIAA protects'), and the moral low-ground ('The professional staff of GOBBLES Security believe that by releasing our advisories without vendor notification of any sort is cute and humorous, so this is also the first time the vendor has been made aware of this problem. We hope that you're as amused with our maturity as we are'), Gobbles has confounded our efforts. At the time of writing, only The Register has any other commentary on this, so the next few days should prove interesting.
Posted on 14 Jan 2003 by Virus Bulletin