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Monday, November 07, 2005
Russinovich Continues Its Criticism Against Sony

Sony's software patch released in response to an uproar over its XCP CD copy protection software is claimed to cause some computers to crash, according to Mark Russinovich, the computer expert at the heart of the controversy.

Russinovich, chief software architect for Winternals Software, has published further research into Sony's XCP copy protection software that discusses this patch problem and raises new privacy concerns about the product. The patch makes XCP visible to system tools and antivirus products and to Windows system tools.

He said that a design flaw in Sony's patch theoretically could cause a computer to crash as the software was installed. Though the risk of such an occurrence was small, Russinovich said that the problem was a further mark against Sony's reputation. "It's obvious that whoever's written this doesn't have all that much experience in writing drivers for Windows," he said in an interview Friday.

First 4 Internet, the company from which Sony licenses XCP has not officially commented on the claims.

Sony released the patch this week in response to complaints from computer enthusiasts that XCP (Extended Copy Protection) used methods commonly associated with spyware and viruses to make itself nearly impossible to detect or remove from a PC. If the software were to slow down a computer's performance or somehow be exploited by hackers, it could be extremely difficult to repair, according to critics such as Russinovich.

Sony's patch can be found here. A list of Sony CDs using the XCP software is being compiled here.

As noted, Sony licenses XCP from a Banbury, UK, company called First 4 Internet, and it began shipping the software with some of its CDs earlier this year, in order to restrict unauthorized copying. Sony executives have said that only about 20 music titles have shipped with the software.

Russinovich also published further research showing that the XCP software appears to be in communication with Sony's Web site. The client appears to connect with Sony's servers looking for updates to lyrics or album art, but the way the software operates raises some privacy concerns, Russinovich said.

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