Deja Vu: Sony Using Rootkits Again, F-Secure Charges
A line of USB drives sold by Sony Electronics installs files in a hidden folder that can be accessed and used by hackers, a Finnish security company charged Monday, raising the specter of a replay of the fiasco that hit Sony's music arm two years ago when researchers discovered that its copy protection software used rootkit-like technologies.
According to F-Secure Corp., the fingerprint-reader software included with the Sony MicroVault USM-F line of flash drives installs a driver that hides in a hidden directory under "c:\windows". That directory, and the files within it, are not visible through Windows' usual APIs (application programming interface), said F-Secure researcher Mika Tolvanen in a posting to the company's blog Monday.
"[But] if you know the name of the directory, it is possible to enter the hidden directory using [the] Command Prompt and it is possible to create new hidden files," said Tolvanen. "There are also ways to run files from this directory."
All of this -- and the fact that the directory goes unspotted by some antivirus scanners -- is similar to the Sony BMG rootkit case in late 2005. Then, researchers spotted rootkit-like cloaking technologies used by the copy-protection software Sony BMG Music Entertainment installed on PCs when customers played the label's audio CDs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleged that Sony had violated federal law by, and settled with the company earlier this year. Before that, Sony paid out nearly US$6 million to settle cases with U.S. states.