RSA - DHS: Sony rootkit may lead to regulation

In light of the Sony BMG debacle, U.S. DHS officials warned of regulation if companies continue to distribute rootkit software.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official warned last week that if software distributors continue to sell products with dangerous rootkit software, as Sony BMG Music Entertainment recently did, legislation or regulation could follow.

"We need to think about how that situation could have been avoided in the first place," said Jonathan Frenkel, director of law enforcement policy with the DHS's Border and Transportation Security Directorate, who was speaking at the RSA Conference 2006 in San Jose, California. "Legislation or regulation may not be appropriate in all cases, but it may be warranted in some circumstances."

Last year, Sony began distributing XCP (Extended Copy Protection) software in some of its products. This digital rights management software, which used rootkit cloaking techniques normally employed by hackers, was later found to be a security risk, and Sony was forced to recall millions of its CDs.

The incident quickly turned into a public relations disaster for Sony. It also attracted the attention of DHS officials, who met with Sony a few weeks after news of the rootkit was first published, Frenkel said. "The message was certainly delivered in forceful terms that this was certainly not a useful thing," he said of the meeting.

While Sony's software was distributed without malicious intent, the DHS is worried that a similar situation could occur again, this time with more serious consequences. "It's a potential vulnerability that's of strong concern to the department," Frenkel said.

Though the DHS has no ability to implement the kind of regulation that Frenkel mentioned, the organization is attempting to increase industry awareness of the rootkit problem, he said. "All we can do is, in essence, talk to them and embarrass them a little bit."

In fact, this is not the first time that the department has expressed concerns over the security of copy protection software. In November, DHS assistant secretary for policy Stewart Baker warned copyright holders to be careful of how they protected their music and DVDs. "In the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days," Baker said, according to a video posted to the Washington Post Web site. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2005/11/11/VI2005111101160.html)

Despite the Sony experience, the entertainment industry's use of rootkits appears to be an ongoing problem. Earlier this week security vendor F-Secure Corp. reported that it had discovered rootkit technology in the copy protection system of the German DVD release of American film star Angelina Jolie's movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." That DVD is distributed in Germany by Kinowelt GmbH, according to the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).

Baker stopped short of mentioning Sony by name, but Frenkel did not. "The recent Sony experience shows us that we need to be thinking about how to ensure that consumers aren't surprised by what their software is programmed to do," he said.

Sony BMG officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?