Active CD protection and spyware

Summary:By now, you've probably tired of hearing about Sony BMG's rootkit-based DRM and may have come to the conclusion that this was one bad actor in a sea of less intrusive and maybe even effective DRM strategies.  In his usually clear style, Ed Felton has explained why this isn't so.

By now, you've probably tired of hearing about Sony BMG's rootkit-based DRM and may have come to the conclusion that this was one bad actor in a sea of less intrusive and maybe even effective DRM strategies.  In his usually clear style, Ed Felton has explained why this isn't so.  In Ed's analysis, active CD DRM strategies have to use the same strategies as spyware purveyors. 

So if you’re designing a CD DRM system based on active protection, you face two main technical problems:

  1. You have to get your software installed, even though the user doesn’t want it.
  2. Once your software is installed, you have to keep it from being uninstalled, even though the user wants it gone.

These are the same two technical problems that spyware designers face

As Ed points out, people who face the same technical problems usually find similar solutions.  In the case of active CD copy protection, that technical solution comes down to rootkits.  You either have to use the same tactics that spyware manufacturers use or your copy protection will be easily rendered ineffective by end users.  This could even be done automatically by other programs. 

Topics: Security

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