Cinavia is one of the things that the “universal backdoor” of forced software updates is capable of imposing.
So, I noticed this new-ish form of DRM, called “Cinavia”.
It’s basically an audio watermark that can be embedded into the soundtrack of a movie in theatrical release, or on Blu Ray and DVD discs.
Yes, I said DVDs. It can be “backported” onto the DVD format without changing the specification, and Blu Ray players or playback software that recognizes the Cinavia DRM will recognize it.
DVD players, Blu Ray Players that have not been “updated” to recognize it (yet), and software that does not know what Cinavia is will just ignore it.
If the firmware/software does recognize what Cinavia is, and thinks that you’ve pirated the movie, it will let you get about 20 minutes into the movie file, and then it will either stop the movie or tell the device/software to forcibly disable all audio outputs. Don’t bother trying to remove it, as it is resilient to added noise, as well as popular audio compression codecs such as Ogg Vorbis, AAC, and MP3.
Right now, it seems that only some individual Windows software programs recognize Cinavia and comply with its order to cut the audio outputs, but eventually this could easily be made global through the Windows audio subsystem itself. If you try to use open source media player software, such as VLC or Media Player Classic on Windows, the audio subsystem could still detect Cinavia and comply with the request to disable the entire audio framework. I suspect that this is coming to Windows, and that when it does, it will be trivial for Microsoft to backport it to previous releases of Windows as a non-removable Windows “update”.
The real bitch of this is that they won’t even have to tell you that’s what it does. They have been known to lie and call things like this a high priority “security” or “reliability” update in the past, and then they can make it so that you can’t remove it later. (And even if you do, it will be in the next Service Pack or version of Windows, so you’ve just bought yourself a little time.)
It’s just as likely that Apple will do this as a global operating system “feature” as well at some point.
In fact, part of the reason for the War on Free (as in freedom) software is because they can’t reach into your computer and force it to do things like this when you run a Free Software operating system.
I have a feeling that in five or six years, after ancient crap such as Windows XP goes out of support, that “Secure Boot” will be fiddled with to remove the ability of the user to turn it off. From that point, when you buy a PC that runs Windows or Mac OS, that’s what you’re stuck with, DRM and all.
Where this Cinavia DRM is the worst at the present time is Blu Ray Disc players with firmware that supports it. Since regular firmware updates are essentially forced on the user to enable the new DRM keys that ship with new Blu Ray Discs, it’s probable that Cinavia will eventually be retroactively added onto your existing player, even if it does not know what Cinavia is right now.
There’s no real way to “refuse” firmware updates when you use a Blu Ray player. Either you apply them, or you start running into new discs that will refuse to play.
That’s what got me thinking about when Richard Stallman called Windows (and all proprietary software with automatic forced updates) a “universal backdoor”.
“This means that any malicious feature which is not in Windows today can be remotely installed tomorrow by Microsoft. So Windows is not just malware, it is a universal malware.” -Richard Stallman
Just replace “Windows” with “proprietary software/firmware” and “Microsoft” with any company that sells proprietary software/firmware or “consumer electronics” that utilize them, and you get to the root of malicious anti-features such as Cinavia.
So, the first thing that many people will do when they hear about malware like Cinavia, is to search to see what hardware is affected, but that is irrelevant now that the malware can be grafted onto systems that shipped without it.
The only way to avoid things like this is to only use Free (as in freedom) operating system software with Free (as in freedom) media playback software, and to avoid any computer hardware that comes about, which will not let you run it.
If you would like to read more about the Cinavia malware, Anandtech wrote a very detailed article, titled “Cinavia DRM: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Blu-ray’s Self-Destruction“, which is very informative.
Capital One’s banking website is by far, the worst I’ve EVER seen.
Opera gives you a security warning that the site doesn’t support secure TLS renegotiations, and you should contact the site owner to upgrade their server.
When I went to check what server they were running, it turned out to be Windows Server with IIS behind some Linux-based caching servers. *UGH!*
Their No Hassle Rewards site doesn’t even load in any browser that is not running on Windows. I’ve tried everything. (Including Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Rekonq, and even for kicks, Konqueror)
It just doesn’t work without Windows.
I ended up calling their tech support hotline, and they told me to have the Geek Squad look at my computer. I shit you not! (Not only is the Geek Squad’s sole purpose to rip Windows users off by charging them $200 for Norton Antivirus and a file system defrag, Best Buy recently fired most of them as it goes belly up because of their overall price gouging. I doubt they know anything about my Kubuntu system, at all.)
In the end, the only way I could end up getting my cashback rewards was to set up auto redemption at every $25.
Capital One’s tech support has people that are so stupid, they should be in the Tea Party.
A trip to the meme generator gives me this to close on….
Two interesting stories on The H Online regarding the Flame malware for Windows.
This means that Flame has been out there for over two years and no antivirus software has done anything about it.
The forgery was simple to pull off since Microsoft’s Certificate Root doesn’t keep proper track of their keys and uses weak DES which most e-commerce sites haven’t bothered to use since the EFF demonstrated that it could be easily cracked using commodity PC hardware from 1998.
This demonstrates a couple things I’ve been saying all along.
1. Why do browser makers not bother to make sure that “Trusted” certificate roots can actually be, you know….trusted? You have Mozilla, Google, and Opera conspiring to keep CACert out, but all of them would trust insecure Microsoft keys from Microsoft’s certificate authority. What’s more disturbing is that Windows apparently recognizes Microsoft’s DES keys. I doubt that it would allow you to sign a kernel module with them, but it would be sufficient to suppress the security warning that pops up that says the software isn’t signed.
2. Antivirus software is pointless. It has marginal effectiveness against common malware, and no effectiveness at all with more sophisticated malware. It’s hard to tell whether this is incompetence or because the US government and Israel write malicious Windows software all the time, and they’d rather that users of Windows not be protected from it.
Microsoft censors Windows Live users. Gives free speech a treatment that would make any tyrant dictator proud.
You’ll have to wait until May to see Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, The Dictator, but in the mean time, Sweaty Ballmer wants to show us how being a petty tyrant is done.
When the user enters a link and it’s to a site that Microsoft doesn’t like, Microsoft’s new approach is to block it at their server and report back to the user that the site is “dangerous”.
So far they seem to do it with The Pirate Bay, which probably hosts and serves less malware and spyware than Microsoft itself (source source source) or sites that aren’t being blocked by them, such as CNET Download.com which delivers crapware bundles with legitimate software.
Since the censorship of links is done at the server level, it means that (not shockingly), Microsoft is monitoring, logging, and spying on everything you say or do while connected to their chat service. It also means that users of alternative messenger software which doesn’t come bundled with the ability to display malicious advertisements like Microsoft’s official client does will not escape the Microsoft server spying on them and kicking back any links that Microsoft doesn’t like. If Microsoft can’t keep their own software and websites from installing malicious software onto Windows PCs, they shouldn’t be blocking anyone else under that excuse.
The penalty for being caught doing any of this is the worst kind of censorship that Microsoft can impose on their users, total account deletion. Some choice excerpts from the EULA for Microsoft’s instant messaging service.
” In particular, we may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications”
“We may cancel or suspend your service and your access to the Windows Live ID network at any time without notice and for any reason.”
In addition, the terms point to a separate obnoxious Code of Conduct with such gems as:
“You will not use any form of automated device or computer program that enables the submission of postings without the express written consent of Microsoft Corporation.”
Among other things, you agree that you won’t post links on how to bypass the security of computer software or break DRM, piracy, “pornography” (which even the Supreme Court has been unable to define, but thank god we have Microsoft as the arbiter of all things wholesome), and of course you are responsible for anything that malicious Windows software decides to do once it has taken over your computer and starts spamming all your friends. (which is bound to happen sooner or later considering you’re using Windows).
Of course, Microsoft includes the clause that lets them delete your account for no reason at all, so really anything you do can (at their whim) be grounds for suspending or deleting your account.
Bottom line: Microsoft is malicious and abusive and anyone who bothers to read their burdensome, obnoxious, and dangerously open-ended and one-sided policies and licensing agreements would have already known this.
If anything, this should serve as another wake up call to ditch Microsoft and their abusive policies and a reminder that if you think Microsoft can be trusted, you’re living in a dream world.
There’s news that Mozilla is considering supporting the patent-encumbered and dangerous MPEG-4 formats known as “h264″ and “aac”. LINK (As reported by The H Online)
It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, but I am in favor of doing it in the way they have described. Albeit unenthusiastically…
We know that there is a dangerous and criminal organization out there called the “MPEG-LA” that doesn’t innovate or produce anything, but acts as a “patent pool” to sue victims who try to implement media codecs without their permission. They “own” several thousand “essential” patents (meaning that you can’t implement the spec without violating them) describing what h264 with aac does.
Microsoft and Apple, which are also criminal cartels, are also members of the MPEG-LA, and are trying to wipe out the open and unencumbered VP8 and Ogg Vorbis combination known as WebM by refusing to support it in Safari and Internet Explorer.
Mozilla and Opera have so far not implemented MPEG codecs because they would be gouged by the MPEG-LA’s innovation tax.
The problem for the user, which is caught in the middle, is that sites that are out there today and insisting on MPEG-4, such as Vimeo, won’t work in Firefox or Opera in HTML 5 mode, and require the proprietary binary blob with gazillions of security problems known as “Adobe Flash” to play their content.
Mozilla is not proposing to ship the offending codecs themselves, but to just use the ones on the system, if any. On Windows, they can hook into DirectShow, on OS X they can hook into Quicktime, and on Linux they can hook into and use anything Gstreamer can play. Of course Android, iOS, and Windows Phone (with all three people who have one) all have their own media codecs.
The problem with this is that it shifts the responsibility to the user to make sure they have codecs. In most cases, the platform in question is promoted by some big company that sees the MPEG-LA siphoning their profits as a cost of doing business, but the codecs are there nonetheless and Firefox is currently not making use of them. It’s the case where a person uses free and open source software, such as a Linux distribution, and doesn’t want top be gouged and run nonfree MPEG Cartel-sponsored gstreamer codecs (from Fluendo), that they have to make a choice about whether to use the codecs that infringe US patents (such as the free and open source gstreamer codecs). In the case of proprietary software, the choice was already made for them, as most choices usually are.
Therefore, my position is… With the objection to the MPEG-LA cartel even being allowed to exist at all. That Firefox should use whatever the user has installed. Refusing to play formats for which the user already has codecs is ridiculous. The user should ideally be using software that respects his or her freedom (such as the gstreamer-bad and gstreamer-ugly codecs, which is where ones with patent problems end up). Even more ideally, the laws should be changed to invalidate every last software patent out there so that the user is free to do what they wish with their own computer, and programmers are free to make software that can compete with established monopolies like Microsoft and Apple. Until then, a couple of minority browsers ignoring those codecs won’t make those codecs go away any more than some Linux distributions not officially providing MP3 codecs has made MP3 go away. Those sites are out there, and users should not feel compelled to use proprietary software such as Internet Explorer, Safari, and Google Chrome to simply view them. Just as users who encounter MP3s, while this is unfortunate, should not have to use proprietary software to play those MP3s.
As a second point for this position, we know Microsoft slips trojan horses into competing browsers on Windows, and so if Mozilla doesn’t do it, Microsoft will wedge in another broken plug-in that is full of security problems to Firefox users on Windows. By making the change in Firefox, they can preempt Microsoft infecting Firefox with more things the user may not have approved of.
It’s unfortunate that this method will make it the user’s problem to decide if they care about using untaxed codecs, but you can thank Microsoft and Apple that someone is going to be stuck with the check.
They did something like this when Vista and Vista 7 went out. In that case, they sent out Alienware laptops to bribe favorable reviews for Vista from the people that got one. LINK (Archive.org copy, the original was disappeared)
Now it appears they are promoting Vista 8 like this as well, only it’s tablets this time.
Kubuntu forums administrator Steve Riley claims he got a “free” tablet at Microsoft’s Vista 8 promotional event called “build”, and that he subsequently removed it and installed Kubuntu.
The intention of Microsoft is that once a “reviewer” (journalist, shill, whatever) gets such a pricey gift, they’ll feel like they owe Microsoft a favor.
It obviously works or they wouldn’t still be doing it. Next time you see a favorable review of Microsoft’s Vista-based operating systems, ask the person what kind of expensive computer Microsoft gave him to pay for that review with.
The uEFI Forum is largely a bunch of SOPA promoters hoping to turn your PC into a locked platform using DMCA anti-circumvention laws.
Unfortunately, the next generation boot firmware for the PC not only fails to completely replace the PC BIOS (which will continue to be used for power on self test and hardware initialization). Those in the know, beyond the corporate media spin doctoring, know that uEFI is just a layer of DRM and corporate lock-in that rides on top of the 30 year old legacy BIOS that starts the computer in real mode just like it did in the 1980s.
uEFI is not a next generation PC boot firmware, we’re being sold a bill of goods. The biggest particular problem is “Secure Boot”. Users are being mislead into believing it has something to do with securely booting a computer while its true purpose is to lock the user into running whatever corporate-sponsored OS that came with the computer, and turning them into a criminal by forcing them to commit a US federal felony by circumventing it to install free software as the computer’s operating system instead.
For the latest lies from the corporate-sponsored media, we go to The H Online which has declared that “Securely booting Linux [is] a “difficult” proposition”. The H is becoming less of a legitimate news source about free and open source software, and becoming more like just any other anti-free and open source rag that mindlessly recites anything that Microsoft pays for. The Register is another example of such an occurance. Over time, Microsoft starts writing their Linux news and you get libellous headlines instead of information. It’s not like the Red Hat employee that they cite is helping dispel this propaganda. (more in a moment)
uEFI “Secure Boot” (which should be called Restricted Boot since it is designed to lock you into an ISV’s operating system software), is is a complex specification. It relies on a nebula of assumptions about the state of the hardware and the bootloader that are not necessarily true and are easily forged. Even if that was not the case, it relies on an assumption that there are no firmware bugs which can be used to subvert and bypass it. It will not provide any meaningful level of additional security to users of any PC operating system, even if it agrees to boot the operating system that the user is trying to use at all. It is designed to turn anyone who cracks it into a criminal, by forcing them to violate Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and being liable to be sentenced to prison for trying to use their computer in freedom.
Cited in the contemptible malarkey is Matthew Garrett, a Red Hat employee. Red Hat is a member of the uEFI forum so that they can sign RHEL and won’t be stopped by Restricted Boot on any workstation or server that comes with their software. I’m pretty sure that this is why we won’t be seeing the GRUB 2 bootloader on RHEL any time soon. GRUB 2 is licensed under the GPL version 3, which protects users from what the FSF refers to as “Tivoization”, which refers to the practice of using free software in a manner that locks the user out of their system with free software, by using DRM in that software.
If Red Hat shipped GRUB 2 and did not disclose their signing keys as teh GPL 3 requires(to protect the user from exploitative hardware/software vendors), they would be in violation of the GPL. The Free Software Foundation could revoke their rights to use the GRUB 2 software. Red Hat has a lot of resources and can probably maintain their fork of Grub 0.97 indefinitely so that they can cooperate with hardware makers to restrict the user. Red Hat benefits from user lock-in just as surely as Apple and Microsoft do if only their signing key is in the uEFI Secure Boot implementation on hardware that ships with their operating system, because there won’t be any of that pesky competition on any system that comes with RHEL.
So right off the bat, I don’t think Matthew Garrett can be a trusted source of information because he is obviously tainted by his employer, and has the same reasons to lie and mislead you as Stevan Sinofsky of Microsoft.
Canonical (Ubuntu) is also a member of the uEFI forum and can probably use Secure Boot on embedded ARM systems to trap people in Ubuntu. They can’t use GRUB 2, but there are bootloaders for ARM, some of them proprietary, which can be used instead. They can probably also sign Ubuntu LTS releases and get their signing key into workstations and servers that ship with Ubuntu, for much the same end result as the RHEL situation I described above. They could even use Grub Legacy in that situation. It didn’t just disappear, it’s still being carried by them if you look up “grub” in their software repository.
A better news flash would be that there never was, is, or will be a way to securely boot a PC, and that corporations are salivating at the prospect of using it to lock end users into their operating system software, to keep the user trapped with whatever their computer happened to come with. The headlines designed to smear Linux are just paid for by Microsoft. The “bootloader attacks” that Secure Boot is supposedly meant to deal with are mostly attacks on the Windows Activation system that rely on bootloader exploits to make Windows believe it is an OEM copy that came with the PC so that the user may use a copy of Windows without paying for it.
Microsoft isn’t interested in stopping the malware of the week from stealing your identity or subverting your system and using it to display (sometimes pornographic) advertisements, which are just two of the things that Windows is known well for. They are interested in stopping the user from being able to run their own software on their private property and from getting away with using a less crippled version of Windows than what came with their computer without forking over more money through the Anytime Upgrade scam.
I don’t believe the corporate ambitions of Red Hat or Canonical are any different.
This work by Ryan Farmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
(This is made up of a set of email I sent to some of the contacts on my address book. I figured I might as well post it here too.)
A good deal of the major web sites have blacked themselves out today in protest of SOPA.
Many of them would not exist at all if SOPA/PIPA (also known as the Internet Blacklist Bills) were to go into effect, or had it been in effect at the time they had started out.
The list of sites includes Wikipedia, Google, and Facebook, some of the most popular sites on the internet. They, and other productive businesses, are under a coordinated attack from large and entrenched companies who distort the news, promote proprietary closed source software and DRM, and troll innovative companies with bogus patents issued by the United States.
SOPA/PIPA doesn’t just threaten “pirates”. SOPA/PIPA threatens free and open source software, and free and open content. It gives the US government, without any court order, the ability to remove sites from the internet. Not just in the US, but worldwide. It must be stopped.
In my personal opinion, it would blow up in the face of the proprietary software companies that are promoting it, and possibly lead to a mass exodus to free and open source software (at least until the rich business criminals at Microsoft and Apple figured out a way to shut them down with unfair legal tactics). As tempting as it would be to otherwise just not care about SOPA/PIPA because it would likely cause these companies to choke on their own greed, gloating at the prospect that the government thugs will take sites distributing this proprietary software down is not the right thing to do. An act of repression is not a good thing, even when it is likely to backfire and cause a revolt. (Besides, you’d think ICE actually had a job to do that isn’t getting done. Hint hint.)
The protest against SOPA/PIPA has forced the mainstream media to (sort of) do their jobs. They were silent on it before because many of the larger ones like MSNBC/CNN/Fox Noise actually supported it.
With sites like Wikipedia and many others gone black or having had large protest banners today, they had to come out of hiding.
The protests have done at least some good. They have raised awareness of this repressive piece of Anti-American legislation, and chased some of the supporters away from it. It lost at least three co-sponsors today as a direct result of the protests.
Many of them gave the MAFIAA (MPAA/RIAA) people a chance to attack the grassroots protests with rhetoric and smear.
Says former Senator, turned MAFIAA shill, Chris Dodd,
“Some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem,” says Chris Dodd, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, which supports the bills. “A so-called blackout is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently.”
You might remember Senator Dodd, he resigned because the MPAA offered him a truckload of money to be a lobbyist working against the American public, and for the rich business criminals who make up the MPAA.
SOPA was largely written by members of ALEC. Most people don’t know what ALEC is, but ALEC is actually the government of the United States. The real one. It’s made up of corporations, lobbyists, dirty money, and private lawyers that hand off finished bills for the shills in Congress to introduce and pass. They probably figured SOPA/PIPA would simply sail through like the rest of the US laws they write, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Normally, their attacks on education, the right to read, and the right to share and help your friends goes unnoticed. Indeed, the DMCA was mild compared to SOPA/PIPA. It managed to get rammed through back when the “social” media phenomenon of the internet was not as vibrant as it is now, or it too may have been shot down by overwhelming public outrage.
ALEC has written a number of state level laws and passed them off to their shills in state governments across the United States, including in Indiana. The “Right To Work” bills are largely their doing. An attack against living wages and jobs with good benefits. Companies wish to deal with workers on an individual basis so that they are expendable and, unable to bargain with their employer, have to accept whatever lousy pay and benefits they’re offered.
Wal-Mart (a member of ALEC) in particular is supporting that one, because it likes to hide the true cost of their merchandise. By avoiding unions, paying their employees minimum wage, and giving most of them no health insurance or benefits. You may think you’re saving money when you shop there, but those employees who work 40 hours a week end up in the line for food stamps and Medicaid. Wal-Mart shifts the difference onto state and federal tax payers, who must foot the bill regardless of if they even shop at Wal-Mart.
SOPA/PIPA is only a symptom. In fact, I’d say that we’re fighting the wrong thing. The disease of bad government remains. You can’t fight a cancer by treating only the symptoms and hoping it goes away.
Finally, I notice that Chris Dodd speaks of middle class jobs being destroyed by “piracy”. I wonder what middle class jobs a branding company full of lawyers and former US senators actually produces. Are they talking about the Mexican cleaning crew that goes over their restrooms or something? (As for Microsoft, they employ very few Americans. Most of the development on Windows and IE is done in India and China.)
Our government has been taken over by these people. When Ben Franklin was asked whether we had a monarchy or a republic, he apparently answered “A republic, if you can keep it”.
Fighting off theocrats and big business interests who want to subvert our freedom, by fighting individual acts that they commit against us, is like trying to cure malaria by swatting at mosquitoes (to borrow part of a Richard Stallman quote about fighting off software patents).
We no longer have a republic, we have a Corporatocracy.
This work by Ryan Farmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Today on The Heise Online, they mention that Microsoft is set to automatically download and install the latest version of Internet Explorer that manages to run on the particular Windows version installed. Since XP is the oldest thing they support, those users will get the obsolete Internet Explorer 8 browser, and Windows 7 users will no doubt get IE 9, which is only barely an improvement over IE 8.
I have no idea how they plan on updating Windows Vista users, but that will no doubt be another surprise for anyone foolish enough to actually be using it. There is IE 9 support for Vista (Which is where they will cut off support), but to get it you need a humongous “platform update” full of select backported crap from Windows 7.
Regardless of what version of Windows the user has, an Internet Explorer update is always dangerous since Microsoft continues to claim it is a system component and not a web browser. It means that at best, you need to reboot your computer, and if the upgrade goes wrong it can mean anything from Internet Explorer not working to the Windows shell failing in inappropriate ways. Internet Explorer installations and upgrades have had a significant number of cases of destroying the operating system beyond being salvageable since at least Windows 95.
No decent operating system claims the web browser is an integrated component that can’t be removed. The Internet Explorer situation is a continuing monopoly abuse and Internet Explorer itself is a relic from the 1990s, when Microsoft tried killing Netscape by forcibly installing their own web browser into Windows.
While we’re on the topic, most other operating systems don’t need to reboot after the user updates their web browser, file manager, media player, email client…..
This “almost comical if so many Microsoft victims weren’t suffering through it” situation makes me wonder what kind of a contrived setup those Microsoft funded “studies” used to get “99.999% uptime”. As soon as you apply any patch or update for Windows, it needs rebooted before the new files are used. Even if the user doesn’t want to reboot. Windows will pester them until they do or better yet, start a countdown and reboot the computer without regard to any work the user has left open and unsaved.
This was one factor, out of many, that frustrated me enough to leave Windows. Another factor is that they routinely triage security patches and frequently leave critical flaws open until the next month, like they did with BEAST this month.
That graph is funny, isn’t it? It’s not that Windows has gotten safer, it’s simply that Microsoft is stretching to classify updates that once would have rated critical as “important” based on the factors of “security improvements” in Windows that are often ineffective. (ASLR not being as random as it could be. NX/DEP being off by default for 32-bit software, many applications don’t bother using stack smashing protection because it exposes their programming flaws and causes them to crash, etc.) In many cases the user is left less than protected by what passes as Windows “security improvements” which is why malware is still rampant.
How can any human being tolerate this?