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Traitorware

Excalibur 11365 by bensonkua via FlickrTraitorware

Software that

~ hides itself from you

~ while it gives your personal data away to a third party

An example of traitorware

Sony CD’s and your computer

What if your CD clandestinely installed a rootkit onto your PC that allowed other people administrative-level access to your computer?  In 2005, Sony BMG did exactly that.

Sony wanted to stop us from making multiple copies of their CD’s.  They put software on their  music CD’s that surreptitiously installed DRM technology onto  our PC’s.

That software also stopped us using those CD’s on some CD-ROM players and CD players in cars.  We knew that, because the CD would fail on other devices.

What we didn’t know is the software that they loaded onto our PC’s  allowed Sony, or any hacker familiar with the rootkit, to do anything they liked to our PC.

And it doesn’t stop there.

If a consumer dared to  find and remove the rootkit and its offending drivers, the software would disable the CD drive and trash the PC.

Why traitorware is so offensive

  • Most of us didn’t know the rootkit was there.
  • The rootkit could be used to harm us

Do suppliers still use traitorware?

Traitorware is always technically feasible.   Here are two more possibilities.

Digital camera

What if your digital camera embeds metadata into your photograph, that you don’t know about, including

  • your camera’s serial number
  • your location?

Printer

What if your printer incorporates  a secret code on every page it prints

  • to identify the printer
  • to identify the computer that requested the print?

Traitor

An old-fashioned word but applicable today.

When you

  • deliberately give information to a third party, or make it possible to do so
  • without my permission
  • with intent or effect to harm me
  • while pretending to serve my interests or being in a fiduciary relationship with me

Hat-tips

Eva Galperin and @zemanta

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