Sony Drops CONNECT but Resumes Rootkits

Sony Electronics has its own music download site CONNECT™ Music Service. After several years of using a proprietary music format they are throwing in the proverbial towel and joining the rest of the technology world and adopting Windows Media and MP3 as their music standards. It appears that the Connect Service is going away but there is no indication if there is a replacement or they are getting out of the download business. Since Sony owns about half the music copyrights in the Western World, I would look to a partnership agreement with someone like Apple or Microsoft if they get out of running a download site.

Below is the core of the press release:

Today Sony announced its intent to move to a Windows Media Technology platform for Walkman® products in the United States, Canada and Europe. We strongly believe that the decision to embrace a more open platform for these devices will enable us to provide you with a better overall experience. As a result of this change, we will be phasing out the CONNECT™ Music Service based on Sony’s ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe. Specific timing will vary by region depending on market demand, but will not be before March 2008.

We are fully committed to helping you through this important transition away from the CONNECT Music Service and providing you with the best possible guidance on how to successfully transfer your music library to an MP3 or Windows Media-compatible format, should you wish to do so. We recommend that you use any outstanding promotional codes, account credits or gift certificates available in your music account prior to March 2008, but even after the store closes you will continue to be able to play, manage, and transfer the music in your SonicStage library and on your existing ATRAC devices. If you obtain a new device, all of Sony’s new Walkman music and video players will support MP3 or Windows Media Audio format.

Sony Rootkit in USB Drives

Sony Corp. is up to its old tricks again, hiding software that can be exploited by hackers in a line of portable USB drives, a Finnish security firm says.

The fingerprint reader software included with Sony’s MicroVault USM-F line installs a driver in a hidden folder that can be accessed by hackers on the user’s computer, according to F-Secure Corp.

F-Secure researchers did suggest that Sony had a good reason for hiding the files. The company was likely trying to protect the USB drive’s fingerprint authenticator information from being tampered with. However, the files are invisible to some anti-virus detection software.

“We feel that rootkit-like cloaking techniques are not the right way to go here,” Tolvanen wrote.

F-Secure said it notified Sony of the problem about a month ago, but did not receive a reply. On Tuesday, researchers with security firm McAfee Inc. confirmed F-Secure’s findings.