Industry News

US Intellectual Property Watchdog Suggests Malware-Like DRM to Fend Off Piracy

The latest report of the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property – an independent association that assesses damage done by piracy in the US – has published recommendations for tackling consumers of pirated materials.

The 100-page report also mentions the possibility for developers to seize control of computers running their products if there is suspicion the products aren’t properly licensed.

“Additionally, software can be written that will allow only authorized users to open files containing valuable information. If an unauthorized person accesses the information, a range of actions might then occur. For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized user’s computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account,” reads page 89 of the report.

If this sounds familiar, you’re right – it’s the same approach used by the cyber-criminal team behind the notorious Reveton / IcePol family of malware that held hundreds of thousands of computers at ransom by locking users out of their desktop.

Broken recommendations

While the document does not mention game piracy or other home-user oriented software, the adoption of such a law would likely generate side effects for home users – a category of consumers that has been actively chased by IP rights organizations such as MPAA and RIAA in the past.

“Such measures do not violate existing laws on the use of the Internet, yet they serve to blunt attacks and stabilize a cyber incident to provide both time and evidence for law enforcement to become involved,” the report states.

Newsflash: there is no central Internet governing body, nor are there universally-acceptable laws to determine what constitutes piracy and what does not in a specific region. Most of the times, the infringer and the IP owner are in different jurisdictions with different opinions on what constitutes abusive use.

Secondly, DRM implementations to date are known to misfire: there are plenty of cases where users of legit software have been flagged as pirates – and this is not limited to games only.  It’s all fun and games until someone loses access to their PC.  This should have been a lesson learned from the Sony rootkit scandal almost a decade ago.

About the author


Bogdan Botezatu is living his second childhood at Bitdefender as senior e-threat analyst. When he is not documenting sophisticated strains of malware or writing removal tools, he teaches extreme sports such as surfing the web without protection or rodeo with wild Trojan horses. He believes that most things in life can be beat with strong heuristics and that antimalware research is like working for a secret agency: you need to stay focused at all times, but you get all the glory when you catch the bad guys.