Week in review: Sony's sour note

Sony BMG finds itself singing the blues this week, after copy protection on many of its CDs struck a sour note on fans' PCs.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment finds itself singing the blues this week, after copy protection on many of its CDs struck a sour note on fans' PCs.

The record label will recall millions of CDs that, if played in a consumer's PC disc drive, will expose the computer to serious security risks. Anyone who has purchased one of the CDs, which include southern rockers Van Zant, Neil Diamond's latest album and more than 18 others, can exchange the purchase. The company added that it would release details of its CD exchange program "shortly."

Sony's software, installed when playing one of the record label's recent copy-protected CDs in a computer, hides itself on hard drives using a powerful programming tool called a "rootkit." But the tool leaves the door open behind it, allowing other software--including viruses--to be deeply hidden behind the rootkit cloak.

Sony reported that over the past eight months, it shipped more than 4.7 million CDs with the so-called XCP copy protection. More than 2.1 million of those discs have been sold.

News of Sony's copy protection problems incensed some CNET News.com readers. "These companies will do anything to stop people from copying their CDs...including making people so afraid to even use a CD, for fear of it destroying their PCs, that no one will buy a copy-protected disc again," wrote Philip Brooks in News.com's TalkBack forum. "Who do they think they are benefiting? It would seem to me that this fiasco will only encourage music pirates. Bravo, Sony!"

Sony BMG took another blow when a security company said it has found malicious attacks based on software designed to defuse the record label's "rootkit" problems. Websense's security labs reported that it has discovered several Web sites designed to exploit security flaws in a rootkit uninstaller program issued by Sony BMG.

Websense has uncovered only a couple of Web sites set up to attack flaws in the initial uninstall program, and the damage they cause appears to be minimal so far. One of them, hosted in the United States, simply restarts infected computers.

Microsoft plans to update its security tools to detect and remove part of those copy protection tools after determining that the "rootkit" can pose a security risk to Windows PCs.

To protect Windows users, Microsoft plans to update Windows AntiSpyware and the Malicious Software Removal Tool, as well as the online scanner on Windows Live Safety Center, to detect and remove the Sony BMG software.

Fight over the Net
The battle for control of the Net ended peacefully before the fight even began, but some are still unhappy with the outcome.

The Bush administration and its critics at a United Nations summit in Tunis, Tunisia, inked a broad agreement on global Internet management that endorses the creation of an "Internet Governance Forum." The forum is meant to be a central point for global discussions of everything from computer security and online crime to spam and other "misuses of the Internet." It will meet for the first time in 2006 under the auspices of the United Nations.

What the agreement does not do is require the United States to relinquish its unique influence over the Internet's operations. The statement takes "no action regarding existing institutions," said David Gross, the ambassador leading the U.S. delegation. "It created no new international organizations."

But because it's not clear which organization will be in charge of organizing the forum, a new round of back-room negotiating and political jockeying is already under way. The top two contenders: the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. body, and the Internet Society, which counts online pioneers from the United States and Europe on its board of directors and is located in Reston, Va.

The ITU doesn't have any day-to-day responsibility over the Internet, and Western businesses and the U.S. government would like to keep it that way. In addition, a power struggle over the creation of the Internet Governance Forum is developing with the Internet Society, meaning that the ITU's management of the forum is not guaranteed. Whichever group is in charge of organizing can set the tone for the forum, craft the rules and influence the final result.

CNET News.com spoke about these topics with Robert Shaw, the ITU's Internet strategy and policy adviser.

The summit itself got off to a rocky start in the eyes of some human rights activists. Just days before the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society began, watchdog groups reported clashes with authorities and violence toward at least one journalist in the North African city of about 10 million people.

The groups called the country unfit to host the international summit because of its

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