The rootkit has even been found on computers run by the Department of Defense, to the Department of Homeland Security's displeasure. It's yet another situation where Macintosh users can watch, amused (well, mostly) from the sidelines, wondering why anyone still uses Microsoft Windows. The story to pay attention to here is the collusion between big media companies who try to control what we do on our computers and computer-security companies who are supposed to be protecting us.Initial estimates are that more than computers worldwide are infected with this Sony rootkit.Those are amazing infection numbers, making this one of the most serious internet epidemics of all time -- on a par with worms like Blaster, Slammer, Code Red and Nimda.

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I truly believed that even in the biggest and most-corporate security company there are people with hackerish instincts, people who will do the right thing and blow the whistle.

That all the big security companies, with over a year's lead time, would fail to notice or do anything about this Sony rootkit demonstrates incompetence at best, and lousy ethics at worst. The company is a fan of invasive copy protection -- it's being built into the next version of Windows.

The Sony code 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 to Sony. 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.

And this isn't one of those lightning-fast internet worms; this one has been spreading since mid-2004.

Because it spread through infected CDs, not through internet connections, they didn't notice?

• November 17, 2005 AM Bruce - Thanks for pulling all of the details of this sad and sordid affair together into one place that I can point the less security aware toward to get the whole story.

Feeding one individual column after another just wasn't putting the whole thing in perspective...

These questions are the real story, and we all deserve answers. EDITED TO ADD (11/19): Details of Sony's buyback program.