Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sony Pictures Entertainment: Cyber Terrorizing Online Music Lovers?

The famed multinational entertainment company may have gained the world’s sympathy after the cyber attack by North Korea and other rogue hackers that almost brought it to its knees near the end of 2014, but is Sony nothing more than a de facto cyber terrorist group? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever wondered why the famed multinational entertainment company Sony Pictures Entertainment has become the proverbial “whipping boy” of rogue hackers (Guardians Of Peace) and state sponsored cyber-terror groups (North Korea’s Bureau 121 and Unit 61318 of the Beijing 50-Cent Cyber Army) years before the brazen cyber attack aimed at the Kim Jong Un assassination spoof movie titled The Interview on its scheduled Christmas 2014 release? Well, US President Barack Obama might have used Sony Pictures Entertainment as a platform of the entire planet’s last bastion of free speech in a world increasingly inching towards “illiberal democracy” and thus making Sony, Seth Rogen, James Franco and some the world’s sympathy when it comes to one’s right of free expression. Unfortunately, virtually all of the world’s population remains clueless of a “grave crime” committed by Sony Pictures Entertainment in the form of its “XCP Rootkit copy protection software”.  

There might be some truth to the fact that Sony Pictures Entertainment might have “inadvertently” made themselves into one of the world’s first cyber terror groups by the multinational company’s first attempts to secure its own intellectual property and other copyrighted works from online piracy at the height of the NAPSTER debacle back in 1999. Copy protection and Digital Rights Management (DRM) measures that date back to a Sony Pictures Entertainment meeting back in August, 2000 when statements made by Sony Pictures Entertainment’s US Senior Vice President Steve Heckler foreshadowed the events that eventually led to the creation of the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software when Heckler told attendees at the Americas Conference on Information Systems that: “The industry (Sony Pictures Entertainment) will take whatever steps it needs to protect itself and protect its revenue streams…”       
The debacle that resulted in the “over zealous” copy protection measures of the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software that eventually became the Sony Digital Rights Management copy protection rootkit scandal of 2005 to 2007 might have “inconvenienced” everyone wanting to clone an expensive rare CD for use in their car stereo or portable players in line with existing Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Fair Use laws might be overshadowed by a greater debacle of former US President George W. Bush’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina back in Autumn of 2005. It unfortunately swept the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit debacle and the dangers it poses under the rug from the radar of the general public. 

According to his personal blog entry in October 31, 2005 of Microsoft’s information technology researcher-in-residence Mark Russinovich who – amongst countless others – who were the first to have uncovered the main dangers posed by the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software are as follows: 1) It creates security holes that can be exploited by malicious software such as worms or viruses. 2) It constantly runs in the background and excessively consumes system resources, slowing down the user’s computer, regardless of whether there is a Sony BMG XCP Rootkit protected CD playing. 3) It employs unsafe procedures to star and stop which could lead to system crashes. 4) It has no uninstaller and is installed in such a way that inexpert attempts to uninstall it can lead to the operating system to fail to recognize existing drives. Soon after Russinovich’s first blog post, there were several Trojans and worms exploiting XCP’s security holes. Some people even used the vulnerabilities to cheat in online games – i.e. Sony’s Playstation consoles’ online games capabilities. 

At the height of the Sony Digital Rights Management copy protection XCP Rootkit scandal, there were 22 million Sony BMG CDs equipped with the “copy protection software” that allowed them to install one of the two pieces of software which provided a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) by modifying the operating system to interfere with CD copying via your personal computer. Both programs couldn’t easily be uninstalled and they created vulnerabilities that were exploited by other malware. Sony claims this was unintentional. 

Following public outcry, government investigations and class action lawsuits in 2005 and 2006, Sony BMG partially addressed the scandal with consumer settlements, a recall of 10 percent of the affected CDs and suspension of CD copy protection efforts in early 2007. Sadly, the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software still wreak havoc in donated computers often used in computer labs of public schools in developing countries set up by set up by leading charity groups like the Clinton Global Initiative / Clinton Foundation since free online antivirus software programs are powerless against the Sony BMG XCP copy protection software. Some IT experts say that only premium antivirus software packages costing 50 US dollars and above are the minimum required to keep the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software at bay in infected desktop PCs. 

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