Symantec, Following in Sony's Footsteps

A couple months back, Sony was caught installing rootkits on computers owned by customers who had purchased CDs from Sony's BMG label. A rootkit is a piece of software which provides full control over a system and hides itself from the operating system. Rootkits are not unlike computer viruses. In fact, they are often virus enablers. This week, it's been announced that Symantec has also been engaged in the practice of compromising their customers' computers with rootkits.

Sony installed the rootkits, ostensibly, to prevent users from pirating their music. What made Sony's offense truly egregious is that their rootkit "phoned home", connecting back to Sony headquarters and downloading updates. Sony claims that the software was just retrieving new album covert art and track listings.

It gets worse. The software uninstaller that Sony finally made available didn't really remove the rootkit. In fact, it left the computer wide open to viruses and worms. The software uninstaller "represents a far greater security risk than even the original Sony rootkit". Sony is now recalling the CDs.

This should make anyone who buys music in CD form think twice before buying anything distributed by Sony's BMG label.

And now, in an attempt to head off a similar scandal and backlash, Symantec has preemptively announced that it's been installing rootkits on customers' computers. Specifically, Symantec's Norton SystemWorks contains a rootkit payload. Symantec claims that they did this to prevent users from accidentally deleting files.

Interesting, if true.

If you've installed Norton SystemWorks on your machine, make sure you get the update from Symantec that removes the rootkit portion of the software. Or, you could just go ahead and remove the whole thing. But that's up to you. I know what I'd do.


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