More on the MediaMax DRM software

The OTHER Sony-BMG DRM (Digital Rights Management) software is in the news again today. freedom-to-tinker which did great research into the security flaws that the UNINSTALL process for both XCP and MediaMax had is back to give more disturbing news. What’s interesting here is that even declining the EULA for the software is no protection against having the MediaMax system service install and run….

From the freedom-to-tinker post…

In the comments to our last MediaMax story, reader free980211 pointed out that the driver sometimes becomes permanently activated if the same protected CD is used more than once, even if the user never agrees to the EULA. This wasn’t apparent from my earlier tests because they were conducted under tightly controlled conditions, with each trial beginning from a fresh Windows installation and involving only carefully scripted operations. I’ve performed further tests and can now confirm that MediaMax is permanently activated in several common situations in spite of explicitly withheld consent.

Further they have an analysis of the situations that this software is enabled…

When you insert a CD containing either version of MediaMax, an installer program automatically starts (unless you have disabled the Windows autorun feature). This installer places the copy protection driver and other files on the hard disk, and then presents a license agreement, which you are asked to accept or decline. In the following scenarios the driver may become permanently activated even if you always decline the agreement:

You insert a CD-3 album, then later insert an MM-5 album

You insert an MM-5 album, then later insert a CD-3 album

You insert an MM-5 album, reboot, then later insert the same album or another MM-5 album

These steps don’t have to take place all at once. They can happen over a period of weeks or months.

So is it anything other than an annoyance for those that would try to illegaly copy discs (or even those that might LEGALLY want to copy tracks to a portable device?) Yes, as the software installs as a kernel driver it can post significant security risks. (Are there vulnerabilities for MediaMax??? What then – full control over the pc?)

They sum up nicely.

Is this behavior illegal? It should be. Installation of system level software where the user has explicitly denied permission raises serious security concerns and is wrong.

I think the pressure deserves to remain high on Sony-BMG until they step back from this practice.

–update 11/29 12:48AM EST–
Eweek has an editorial on Sony’s poor handling of the DRM rootkit. In fact it’s a fairly stinging writeup entitled “Rootkit DRM Constitutes Security Malpractice” It does hold their feet to the fire, not just for the one they were caught with XCP, but the OTHER one mentioned above (MediaMax). There is fair blame for Microsoft as well..

We think it’s worth remembering, however, that the origin of the current malady can be traced back to the dangerously lax security in the Windows XP operating system.

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