Magog: Unguarded
Magog: Unguarded
Swarming Around... cats living with dogs... total chaos.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sony Spyware

The hidden, virtually unremovable software that companies like Sony are forcing people to install before being able to listen to licensed, purchased music is making headlines, not only due to privacy concerns, but also to the security risks being created.

Now, Sony is telling the media that they'll back off, for now. This article isn't quite accurate, because Sony isn't making it any easier for people to uninstall the spyware... they're simply finally acknowledging that people might want to do so.

I happen to have unwittingly purchased one of these DRM-protected CDs. Mine was restricted using an earlier version of DRM, so I'm not sure if I have this latest security hole, or not, but I decided to contact the supplier (in this case Sunncomm) to provide me with an uninstall. Ironically, you have to install an ActiveX control to even attempt the uninstall. In my case, it didn't even work, so now I have two mysterious pieces of software on my PC. Great. I've sent another e-mail to Sunncomm to follow up. Who knows if I'll get anywhere.

Now get this:

The ridiculous part of this whole fiasco is that this DRM restriction doesn't even work. When I first purchased this particular CD a month ago, I was annoyed that it immediately installed something on my hard drive (that I couldn't uninstall or locate), but at least I could listen to the music on my PC. This was great at first, but wasn't very portable. My PC gets heavy after a few minutes.

So I tried to import the songs into my trusty iPod. No luck, since Apple won't play along with Microsoft on this one, and therefore for one reason or another iTunes isn't able to open or convert these DRM-protected WMA files. So, officially, I'm only allowed to listen to the music I bought on my PC via Sonyware or Media Player, or load tracks onto a Microsoft-approved MP3 player.

Right. Like I'm going to settle for that.

Here's where it gets really technical and I explain how to bypass the DRM technology and enable myself to listen to the music I bought legally on a device that I also legally own... ready?

1 - I used Windows Media player to burn a music CD with all of the tracks.
2 - Then I used iTunes to import that CD and convert the tracks to MP3 files.

... I'll wait for everyone to catch up...

That's right; two steps. And I'm not even from Texas.

The entire process takes about 10 minutes, and results in a well-stocked iPod, and a CD completely devoid of any DRM technology which, were I so inclined, I could share with absolutely anyone. I'm tempted, if only out of irritation, but of course I would never do such a thing. That would be wrong.

The point, in the end, for companies like Sony is that it's time for them to rethink a few things. If they don't want to sell music, then fine. Others will. If they don't trust their customers, then they shouldn't do business with them. But loading spyware and opening private PCs to hackers isn't the answer. And people will always find a way to defend their rights.

posted by Max Power | 10:02 AM
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