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DHS Official Weighs In on Sony

A high-ranking Bush administration official weighed in Thursday on anti-piracy efforts domestically and abroad, indirectly chastising Sony BMG Music Entertainment for its digital rights management (DRM) software, which computer security analysis say uses tactics typically employed by virus writers to hide its components and resist their removal.

The reference to the scandal over Sony's anti-piracy software came at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event in downtown Washington on combating intellectual-property theft. At the event, Stewart Baker, recently appointed by President Bush as the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary for policy, made a comment that suggested that some anti-piracy efforts introduced by the industry could have profound and unexpected effects on the security of the nation's critical infrastructures.

I wasn't at the conference, but a regular Security Fix reader who also happens to be a reporter wrote in to say he attended the event and that I might find it interesting given our coverage of the Sony DRM fiasco. DHS declined to make Baker available for an interview, but the Chamber of Commerce was kind enough to provide a Webcast of the event. (To see video of Baker's comments, click here.)

Seated on a panel that featured entertainment and technology executives Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as Susan Mann, director of intellectual property policy for Microsoft, Baker wrapped up his opening comments with the following admonition for the industry:

"I wanted to raise one point of caution as we go forward, because we are also responsible for maintaining the security of the information infrastructure of the United States and making sure peoples' [and] businesses' computers are secure. ... There's been a lot of publicity recently about tactics used in pursuing protection for music and DVD CDs in which questions have been raised about whether the protection measures install hidden files on peoples' computers that even the system administrators can't find."

In a remark clearly aimed directly at Sony and other labels, Stewart continued: "It's very important to remember that it's your intellectual property -- it's not your computer. And in the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days.

"If we have an avian flu outbreak here and it is even half as bad as the 1918 flu, we will be enormously dependent on being able to get remote access for a large number of people, and keeping the infrastructure functioning is going to be a matter of life and death and we take it very seriously."

By Brian Krebs  |  November 11, 2005; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker , Piracy  
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Comments

Good dig! Where are Newsweek and Time??

Posted by: JCanada | November 11, 2005 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Sony is putting Digital Cowpox in the Water Supply to protect us from giving ourselves Digital Smallpox, as if I were tempted. Don't expect me to say thanks, because Cowpox hurts too. Justice should enforce the Patriot Act or 9/11 was just Urban Renewal.

Posted by: GTexas | November 11, 2005 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Does no one else think this article ended weird? DRM blah blah Sony blah. Avian Flu? Oh, and Eat Hufu.

Posted by: Steve Evets | November 11, 2005 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Protection of Intellectual Property should not come at the consumers expense of fair use or computer security.

Posted by: Computer Forensics Company | November 11, 2005 3:43 PM | Report abuse

One of my observations is that certain companies do NOT report DRM related stories that view the issue from the consumers point of view. Virtually all the so called DRM articles have been rehashes of industry press releases. My lsit so for has been the LA Times, NY Times, and PC Magazine. Others have said that CNN also avoids reporting pro-consumer DRM analysis. David Pogue of the NY Times was finally able to publish http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/technology/circuits/09POGUE-EMAIL.html.

Posted by: Steve | November 11, 2005 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Sony is discontinuing, at least temporarily, this technology. However, there is no mention in the news release of recalling these CDs and providing customers with new CDs. Until these CDs are vaporized, they are a threat.

Posted by: Steve | November 11, 2005 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"Does no one else think this article ended weird? DRM blah blah Sony blah. Avian Flu?"

I think Baker's point was that a flu outbreak would increase the number of telecommuters and therefore the dependence on the Internet. These new viruses that are enabled by Sony's DRM could threaten Internet stability.

Posted by: Dave | November 11, 2005 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I think what Mr. Baker was saying is that in a time of emergency, for instance an outbreak of avian flu, computers are going to become one of the primary venues for communication, and that Sony had better not put that at risk just to satisfy their quest to control how we use content. I believe this was a warning shot for Sony, letting them know they stepped over the line. Unluckily, I also believe this was Mr. Baker speaking his own opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the Department of Homeland Security or the Bush administration. Time will tell.

Posted by: Martin McKeay | November 11, 2005 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Stewart's statement was truly extraordinary. From watching the video I am convinced this was not just an off-the-cuff remark. The words were carefully chosen for maximum effect, and had the ring of a statement that was not only cleared, but vetted down to the last syllable. If I were a corporate exec whose company was involved with the kinds of practices discussed, I'd be reversing course about now -- and calling my lawyer. Maybe the tide is about to turn.

Posted by: Phil Lembo | November 12, 2005 2:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm done! This is the final straw. I have been one of the few in my circle of friends who has still been buying CDs instead of downloading everything. Sony has gone WAY too far this time. How can anyone trust these guys anymore? Why would anyone want to take a chance on buying their product which could potentially destroy your computer and everything on it? Give me a break. Whoever at Sony came up with this one, really screwed up big time. This is going to have far reaching and long lasting effects on consumers buying Sony Music products.

It's incredibly sad for the artists also. Sony's actions, with this rootkit, has basically stolen millions (possibly billions) from the artists by causing people to completely distrust Sony Music products and stop buying their music. How sad...

Bye Bye Sony Music. You've dug your hole, you've been lying in it, and now the dirt is being thrown on top of you (fast).

Posted by: Bryan | November 12, 2005 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Canada doesn't yet have a law that protects the excessive use of so-called "technical measures", such as Sony's malware, falsely claimed to protect copyright. If you are as upset as this as I am, please join us at http://digital-copyright.ca to do anything you can to Kill Bill C-60 http://KillBillC60.ca , the bill that seeks to impliment the 1996 WIPO treaties.

Technical measures are better understood as "paracopyright" and not copyright. This is just technology or law used by copyright holders, and is no more relevant to the substance of copyright law than an Income Tax act is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracopyright

Posted by: Russell McOrmond | November 12, 2005 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I need a new laptop and I won't even consider a
Sony VAIO

Posted by: No More Business with Sony!!! | November 13, 2005 9:22 AM | Report abuse

the foregoing comments are all well and good, but please provide info/links for removing this threat from our computers !
Thanx

Posted by: Robert Greene | November 13, 2005 11:13 PM | Report abuse

the foregoing comments are all well and good, but please provide info/links for removing this threat from our computers !
Thanx

Posted by: Robert Greene | November 13, 2005 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Poorly conceived business practices that alienate, rather than attract, customers are nothing new.

Sometime back in the 1980's, there was a similar security obsession on the part of software makers, then to prevent the copying of IMB PC floppies. One anti-piracy vendor, who had a major share of the protection market, came up with a "brilliant" idea: to place a latent virus on the disk that would destroy the violator's computer if discovered to be illegally copying software. I don't think they even had time to test their concept - fear of rogue virus infections caused panicked customers to abandon them in droves and they were out of business within a matter of months. (Or so I recall.)

Posted by: BHubbard | November 15, 2005 4:27 AM | Report abuse

Sony's corporate charter should be revoked over this. If I hacked Sony I'd go to jail and lose everything. Their assets should be frozen and their doors closed permanently. Write to your Congressmen, Senators and the White House. It's time corporations were brought back under control. Corporate charters are issued by governments, ostensibly for the betterment on the populace. We the People demand justice!

Posted by: PhoenixMylo | November 15, 2005 3:36 PM | Report abuse

quote:
It's incredibly sad for the artists also. Sony's actions, with this rootkit, has basically stolen millions (possibly billions) from the artists by causing people to completely distrust Sony Music products and stop buying their music. How sad... end quote

Don't worry, Sony will blame the decrease in sales on internet theft and use it to justify even more draconian measures! ;)

Posted by: FSchmertz | November 17, 2005 12:23 PM | Report abuse

quote: It's incredibly sad for the artists also. Sony's actions, with this rootkit, has basically stolen millions (possibly billions) from the artists by causing people to completely distrust Sony Music products and stop buying their music. How sad...
(end quote)

Don't worry, Sony will blame their decreased sales on Piracy, and initiate even more draconian methods to prevent it! ;)

Posted by: FSchmertz | November 17, 2005 12:55 PM | Report abuse

There have been some reports of military computers being infected by Sony's software.

I shudder to think of the possible consequences of somebody popping a Sony CD into a PC that's used for 911 response, hospital functions, etc

Posted by: Papa Bear | November 17, 2005 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I have stopped buying anything Sony, and not just music. I even pulled the CDRom out of the computer. When a company thinks they can invade ones privacy at will then it's time to boycott the company 100%. I will no longer trust Sony in anything they offer for sale. Instead of the giant just stopping their practice why not make them furnish a way to get rid of the illegal intrusion of millions of personal property computers.

Posted by: Tim G. | November 18, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Sony should fire the executives & management chain behind this feature to save face. To offset the expense the company incurs & damage to shareholders, they need to leave that chain vacant.

Posted by: FireExecs | November 21, 2005 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Stop buying and get rid of your Sony Play Station.

Posted by: Ed Connecticut | November 22, 2005 8:36 PM | Report abuse

AUTHOR: Somedude
EMAIL:
IP: 136.209.19.6
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DATE: 11/28/2005 10:20:16 AM

Posted by: Somedude | November 28, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

thanks

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The information is currently being released in installments on a private UFO e-mail list moderated by Victor Martinez. The list contains about a hundred people, including many extremely well-known names in UFO research and other related or leading edge scientific fields. Until permissions are granted, their names will be withheld for the time being out of courtesy and to respect confidentiality.

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