Schadenfreude And Sony

I feel bad for the Sony employees affected. This can’t be fun for them. But for Sony itself, a company I once respected as the leader in consumer electronics I have little sympathy and lots of schadenfreude.


Sony has been hacked. It’s pretty severe. Company and personal secrets have been spilled. Some data has probably been lost. Media files from finished, but unreleased, movies are now online. It’s a very big problem.

Hacking like this has happened before. In 2005 Bruce Schneier wrote about sneaky code on music CDs which

modifies Windows so you can’t tell it’s there, a process called “cloaking” in the hacker world. It acts as spyware, surreptitiously sending information about you… And it can’t be removed; trying to get rid of it damages Windows.

Nasty stuff. Which leads me to my favorite German word, “schadenfreude.”

Schadenfreude (/ˈʃɑːdənfrɔɪdə/; German: [ˈʃaːdn̩ˌfʀɔɪ̯də] ) is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is taken from German and literally means ‘harm-joy.’ It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. It is also borrowed by some other languages.Wikipedia

Why would I feel pleasure from Sony’s misfortune? It was Sony that installed malware on buyers of its CDs!

Back to Bruce Schneier:

It’s a tale of extreme hubris. Sony rolled out this incredibly invasive copy-protection scheme without ever publicly discussing its details, confident that its profits were worth modifying its customers’ computers. When its actions were first discovered, Sony offered a “fix” that didn’t remove the rootkit, just the cloaking.

Sony claimed the rootkit didn’t phone home when it did. On Nov. 4, Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG’s president of global digital business, demonstrated the company’s disdain for its customers when he said, “Most people don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?” in an NPR interview. Even Sony’s apology only admits that its rootkit “includes a feature that may make a user’s computer susceptible to a virus written specifically to target the software.”

However, imperious corporate behavior is not the real story either.

This drama is also about incompetence. Sony’s latest rootkit-removal tool actually leaves a gaping vulnerability. And Sony’s rootkit — designed to stop copyright infringement — itself may have infringed on copyright. As amazing as it might seem, the code seems to include an open-source MP3 encoder in violation of that library’s license agreement.

What goes around comes around!

I feel bad for the Sony employees affected. This can’t be fun for them. But for Sony itself, a company I once respected as the leader in consumer electronics I have little sympathy and lots of schadenfreude.

Sounds Like A Job For Tech Support Man!

An email from one of my Irvine cousins was waiting when I woke up today. There was a problem.

I have pop up ads, inline text ads and my back up won’t work. I have tried everything to remove this crap but I can’t

Sounds like a job for Tech Support Man!

He’s your cousin, your brother, your co-worker, your neighborly geek, until your computer starts throwing fits. All of a sudden he’s indispensable. He’s Tech Support Man!

No wonder IT guys always have ‘tude!

This problem was mean. Pop-ups. Ad insertions in websites. Linkjacking.

The computer felt digitally unclean. It was. Strangers had usurped some control. Who knows what they were doing that you couldn’t see?

The main miscreant was “SavingsBull.” It’s supposed to bring coupons and deals. It brings ads. Lots. Few would click to install it knowingly.

It is socially engineered onto your system. It comes packaged with something you want, like a nice piece of software. Its presence is hidden in the click agreements most folks speed through.

Someone said “Yes,” to installing it, but without knowing what they were agreeing to.

We Tech Support Men have a secret. We really don’t know how to fix everything. We just know how to find the answer. Usually the solution is laid out, A, B, C, etc.

SavingsBull is a new arrival to the pain-in-the-ass scene based on the dates of tech bulletins about it.

I used a few malware scanners to hunt down the pesky files and zap them away. It’s like fighting cancer. If you don’t get it all they can sometimes replicate itself and spread! The programs look to be fully removed and the patient should recover.

There are loads of good anti-everything programs. They’re ineffective. Most of this crap is carried in by the computer users themselves. We have been conditioned to click and say yes.

Be careful. Tech Support Man, out.