Sony in more rootkit rows

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Aug 28, 2007

Accusations of sneakiness and unsafe practices hit media giants again.

Sony has been tangled up in two separate rootkit scares in the past few days, with a brief outcry over hidden software installed by a PC game swiftly followed by more serious allegations about techniques used by a supposedly secure USB key system.

The game incident affected players of popular first-person-shooter game BioShock, which includes a copy-protection system named SecuROM, provided by Sony. The system uses hidden files and protected registry entries which were flagged by RootkitRevealer (now provided by Microsoft). This flagging was quickly interpreted as meaning the system used rootkit techniques, much like the long-running scandal involving Sony BMG installing rootkits as part of copy protection on music CDs. However, analysis quickly showed that the changes were only flagged as hidden, and did not constitute a security risk.

Before the hubbub had died down, F-Secure released details of another, more serious incident - a USB key from Sony which installed software using rootkit measures to hide a folder containing related files. The keys use fingerprints to prevent unauthorised access to data, and store the identification data in the hidden folder. However, the folder remains accessible via some methods, which could allow malware to take advantage of the changes cloaking the folder, and its contents, to hide their malicious code from the user.

The MicroVault USB stick tested by F-Secure is apparently an older model and may not be on general release, but researchers were able to find the potentially unsafe items on sale for testing. Their detailed blog entry on their discoveries is here. Information on the BioShock incident is at arstechnica here.

Posted on 28 August 2007 by Virus Bulletin

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