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Sony halts production of 'rootkit' CDs

Decision to suspend manufacture of music CDs with the copy-protection tool comes after viruses exploited the technology.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment said Friday that it will suspend production of CDs with copy-protection technology that has been exploited by virus writers to try to hide their malicious code on PCs.

The decision by the music label comes after 10 days of controversy around the technology, which is designed to limit the number of copies that can be made of the CD and to prevent a computer user from making unprotected MP3s of the music.

Security experts blasted the technology because it uses "rootkit" techniques to hide itself on hard drives and could be used by virus writers to make their malicious code invisible. The first remote-control Trojan horses that took advantage of the cloak provided by Sony BMG surfaced this week.

"We are aware that a computer virus is circulating that may affect computers with XCP content protection software," the record label said in a statement Friday. "We stand by content protection technology as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology."

The company said it is not halting production of all discs that contain additional copy-protection technologies. It also uses antipiracy technology from SunnComm and will keep manufacturing CDs carrying that software, a Sony BMG representative said.

The XCP software, created by U.K.-based First 4 Internet, is included on a limited number of Sony BMG titles, including recent releases from My Morning Jacket and Southern rockers Van Zant. When the discs are played on a computer, the listener is asked to click through a consent form and install the copy-protection software.

In response to the firestorm of criticism around the copyright protection software, Sony BMG has also provided a patch to fix the security problem and still allow CDs to be played on computers. Some antivirus software also detects the Sony BMG tool and can help users protect their PCs.