In today's installment, Ed and Alex talk about "deactivation attacks" on DRM -- that is, how do the people who supply user-hostile anti-copying software keep users from uninstalling it? Keeping users from uninstalling software is also the goal of spyware and other malicious software, and "rogue" spyware and the DRM distributed on CDs use common approaches to sinking their roots into their victims' computers.
In this piece, the researchers go into depth about the tactics used in the malware that Sony distributed -- it's fascinating reading.
Though it is not surprising that spyware tactics would have attraction for DRM designers, it was a bit surprising that mass-market DRM vendors chose to use those tactics despite the risk of harming users. If only one vendor had chosen to use such tactics, we could write it off as an aberration. But two vendors made that choice, which is probably not a coincidence.Link
We suspect that the explanation may lie in the DRM vendors’ platform building strategy, which relies on keeping the software installed on as many computers as possible, coupled with the risk tolerance of DRM startup companies. The vendors may not have realized the extent of damage they could be causing, but they must have known that they were doing some harm. Our hypothesis is that the vendors allowed the lure of platform building to override the risk to users.
(Sony taproot graphic courtesy of Sevensheaven)
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.