sony, drm, NSA hacking, me.

SONY, the US media company, is back in the news. I can tell some stories here – though I’ve changed some names and storylines to protect folks.

Back when I was at VeriSign, I got to play chief architect – at least for a while. During that period, I worked with Microsoft’s Windows group, and the newly formed Authenticode team. WinTrust was the result – the means of validating signatures on code/files, including drivers or streams of data subject to policies enforced by a (note a, not the)  TCB. Recall, that the NT architecture is a micr0-kernel design and there are multiple subsystems, each with their own TCB.

First clue given above. And no, its not “Microsoft”.

Sony was known at the time, in Microsoft circles, for being a right royal pain in the ass when it came to being a corporate stooge for NSA (the NSA of back then, not now). The US side of Sony was entirely indoctrinated and penetrated – and saw it as their mission to use media distribution as a way of doing the job formally done by CIA. Quite properly, they wanted to make a  civilian business out of former government “business-lines” – and DRM and “trojaned silicon” was to be their edge. One of the first converts was to be windows (and its DRM’ed DVD player); and SONY wanted the means to remotely project poliicy control over an PC, ostensibly to enforce  media rights. Of course, the whole program was a foil for CIA, in the sense that it was CIAs job to support the NSA of the day when performing the implanting process.

Perhaps, folks recall sony magicGate chip line. One might want to get a hold of some, and NOWADAYS go analyze the silicon gates. Go look for the trojans build into the silicon itself, in the certain batches intended “for export”

Anyways, sony wanted to Microsoft to alter authenticode – at the architecture level –  purportedly for reasons of ensuring that hardware (HP Bristol/GCHQ’s TPM) would control the playback drivers. The goal was to ensure that only certain (signed/certified) drivers could drive certain layers of the screen (which facilitated a covert channel, susceptible to the kind of antenna mounted in the typical US embassy)

So what was my job?  produce a consultancy report that independently advised an alterative course. No, it was NOT to subvert the program noted above. It was, however, to do what the program claimed to do (rather than have the program used as systemic dupeware … to do something, ahem, else).

One of the problem the current natsec folks will be having, over the current issue is that its very likely only to open up to technical scrutiny what USED to be happening, as national policy, in the memory chip area. And that will open up questions about how much better might be similar processes, at the silicon level recall, today.




Computer Programmer who often does network administration with focus on security servers. Very strong in Microsoft Azure cloud!
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