Suit labels Sony root of cyber evil

A class action lawsuit filed in a California court against Sony BMG alleges the music publisher included hidden software on a number of music CDs capable of wiping out users’ information and crippling their computers.

The suit, which was filed on Nov. 1 by Alexander William Guevara, claims CDs containing Sony’s new XCP2 anti-piracy program can damage users’ computers. The software, called a “rootkit,” automatically installs on computers with Microsoft’s Windows program and hides deep in the computer where it can monitor activity and cause system crashes.

Sony didn’t inform customers that its CDs contained the “rootkit” and it can’t be removed without damaging the infected computer, the suit charges.

Guevara’s lawyer, Alan Himmelfarb, could not be reached for comment.

To date 20 Sony-issued discs have been found with the controversial software, including Celine Dion’s “On ne Change Pas,” Switchfoot’s “Nothing is Sound” and Neil Diamond’s “12 Songs.”

"Sony BMG is selling music fans a bum set of goods," said Jason Schultz, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – a San Francisco digital rights organization currently collecting complaints from consumers to bring a case against Sony.

A Sony spokesman didn’t return calls yesterday.

Sony’s software is “totally invisible to the user,” said Yankee Group analyst Nintin Gupta. “That’s just wrong. Sony should not be doing that.”

“Rootkit” software has quickly become a favorite with hackers to send out viruses. Just yesterday a computer security company in Europe identified a virus using Sony’s piracy protection, according to a Reuters report.

Reportedly another lawsuit aimed at Sony is likely to come this week in New York.