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Beastie Boys claim no virus on crippled CD

We'll be the judge of that

The Beastie Boys website claims that the copy-control mechanism on the DRM-crippled CD "To the 5 Boroughs" does not install any files on the victim's computer.

According to the notice, the disks use "Macrovision's CDS-200 technology, the same technology being used for the past several months around the world for all of EMI's releases in those territories. This Macrovision technology does NOT install spyware or vaporware of any kind on a users PC. In fact, CDS-200 does not install software applications of any kind on a user's PC. All the copy protection in CDS-200 is hardware based, meaning that it is dependent on the physical properties and the format of the CD. None of the copy protection in CDS-200 requires software applications to be [installed] onto a computer."

A recent report by New Scientist quotes an EMI spokesperson vehemently insisting that "there is no spyware on the discs." Which is an interesting statement, considering that no one has claimed to find any spyware. It does have a certain ring of trying to change the subject.

According to New Scientist, "EMI admits that one piece of software is downloaded on to a computer's hard drive, but say this is only a graphical skin that provides the user with the stop, start and volume buttons needed to play the music. This also uninstalls when the CD is removed, the company says."

As yet, we've not been able to obtain the disk and observe how it functions because it's not distributed in regions inhabited by Register staff. We do have one on order from Canada, but it will not arrive for at least a week, perhaps later.

Meanwhile, reader Vermis Rex was kind enough to send us the contents list of the disk's main directory, which contains autorun.inf (containing a pointer to player.exe), player.exe, and an uninstaller; and the contents of a subdirectory containing audio.dll, audio.exe,, info.ini, Interface.nib, Lang.dll, macaudio.dll, skin, skin.exe, version.txt, wmmp.exe, yucca.cds, and _master.bin.

We looked at some of the smaller text files, those of suitable size for e-mail, and found nothing alarming. However, we won't be able to say whether the software on the crippled CD affects a computer's functioning, interferes with any processes, or copies any files to disk, until we actually run it and observe the processes it initiates.

Until then, it would be a good idea for users to disable autorun, as described in our original report, and to search their hard disks for any of the files mentioned above, except yucca.cds (the music archive). Also, it is unwise to delete any .dll files unless you are certain that they were installed or 'updated' by the Beastie disk. If an existing .dll appears to have been overwritten, it is possible to roll it back to a previous version if you use the Windows System Restore feature.

Reader Gabriel Bassett recommends using the TweakUI tool available from Microsoft to disable autorun, because it's simpler than the manual registry hack we recommended in our original coverage.

Finally, we will publish an update after we've received and had a chance to play with the Beastie Boys' DRM-infected disk. ®

Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux.

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