Monday, November 14, 2005

Sony and the scandal

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the whole scandal with the Sony CDs that are infected with some very unpleasant code that gets run and changes the way your system works and hooks in at very deep levels to hide itself. The fact that they stopped production of the CDs ten days after it was revealed what they were doing is good. But the fact that it happened at all is unforgivable.

There's absolutely no excuse. They can't say they didn't know what the CDs did; they had to have tested them out and asked plenty of technical questions if they were buying the technology. And there's no way that they can say that the code that gets wrong isn't harmful and just plain wrong. It's disgusting, and as unlikely as I usually am to participate in any sort of pointless boycott against a corporation, the chances of me purchasing another Sony electronics product anytime soon are now extremely low. They've lost any trust they might have had with me, and their name and image mean nothing but bad things now.

No, the motives behind this had to have been just evil. I'm normally one to give the benefit of the doubt, but not this time. They've specifically chosen a technology that hides itself. It's clearly malicious, it's clearly subversive, and it's absolutely shameful. I hope the lawsuits against them succeed, not out of spite, but just because it's nice to see the guilty punished, and hopefully it will make others think twice about doing something so incredibly stupid. Enron and its buddies mostly gave the middle finger to their investors, which was bad enough, but what Sony has done is attack its customers. To me, this is far more unacceptable than record companies suing file sharers, because those people are doing something illegal and I feel they—with a few exceptions—deserve to pay for what they've done. Sony's customers didn't deserve how they've been screwed over.

I'm glad that Microsoft has had the balls to stand up to Sony and commit to removing their DRM code through Windows Update. I honestly didn't think they would further hurt their relationship with another big, important corporation like Sony, and rather stand to the side and let things play out.


Anonymous said...

Let me see here:

1) product "feature" goes into the wild with limited testing
2) feature allows some hooks to enable some individuals to "hide" malicious code on a computer

Do I need to go back and reread your previous defense of MS? The only difference here is that the "feature" was to the benefit of the corporation, not the consumer. Albeit an important difference, the fact that you defend MS as more or less doing the best they can and then rant about Sony for THE EXACT SAME quality assurance flaw is a bit perplexing to me.

Should the term fanboy apply here?

Travis said...

No, no... that's just the point. If this were a quality assurance flaw, then I would be less upset about it. But it's not. Nothing points to it being a quality assurance flaw, in my mind. It's an open attack on the consumer's computer by a major corporation. I hate to sound overly dramatic, but that's what it is.

The "rootkit," as it has been termed, is doing exactly what it was intended to do. It wasn't intended, I'm sure, to allow virus writers to hide their code, but that's not even what I'm that concerned about. The mere fact that Sony chose technology that behaved this way for a few of their CDs is what's so sick.

Anonymous said...

We do agree completely that what sony is doing is evil beyond compare ... although I suspect that if Apple had their way they would be doing something very similar :-\

on a side note: to hell with this word verification stuff, some of these fonts are hard for humans to read; is that an 'a' or an overly scripty and curved 'u'?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. I think it is very unethical for any company to install anything on a system without expressly informing the user. Especially when it directly affects how the computer functions and then worsen the situation by not having an uninstall feature. It’s kind of like shopping at a store and finding out that they have cameras in all the bathroom stalls to make sure nobody steals.

I question Sony’s motive as well, and I’m sure they’ll pay the price for being twits. I wonder if Sony has a remove app available somewhere. That’d be really amusing if they don’t.

Luke said...

The uninstaller is available from Sony's website. It (the uninstaller) is not installed onto your PC nor is it available on the CD. It is available, however (though, it was not before Russinovich @ sysinternals revealed what was going on -- you could then only request by email).

To be fair, the CD does inform you that you are installing something for copy-protection purposes -- they just don't tell you all the details. And, indeed, it even comes with a EULA (one that specifically mentions your ability to remove the software even though no mechanism was provided).

Anonymous said...

Ah, well Matt got Switchfoot's CD and it secretly installed all by itself via autorun.

It prevented him from ripping the CD, he didn't test it on other cds to see if it was a 'global' change. But needless to say, he has to reformat to get rid of it. Then he could rip the CD if he made sure autorun was turned off.

I just assumed that the Sony scandle was the same stuff.

Travis said...

Yeah, the word verification stuff sucks.

Travis said...

...and I was under the impression that the uninstaller was still only available by email, but the Service Pack 2a that made it less scary was available for immediate download.

Kerjo said...

You mean the service pack that also included a software update for it? Yeah, that's real great.

This service pack also disabled it by sending a "net stop" command to it.