The other day I used Process Explorer to examine the drivers loaded on a home system to see if I’d picked up any Sony or Starforce-like digital rights management (DRM) device drivers. The DLL view of the System process, which reports the currently loaded drivers and kernel-mode modules (such as the Hardware Abstraction Layer – HAL), listed mostly Microsoft operating system drivers and drivers associated with the DVD burning software I have installed, but one entry, Asctrm.sys caught my attention because its company information is “Windows (R) 2000 DDK provider”:
This is the company name included in the version information of drivers that have been based on sample code from the Windows 2000 Device Driver Kit (DDK) and it’s obviously unusual to see it in production images. The driver’s description is equally unenlightening: “TR Manager”. My suspicions aroused, I set about investigating.
My first step was to right-click on the entry and “Google” the driver image name. The resulting Google search reveals that others have this driver and that in some cases it had been identified as the cause of system crashes, but although several spyware databases have entries for it, none of the ones I checked conclusively tied the driver with an application or vendor.
I next looked for clues in the image itself by double-clicking on the driver entry in the DLL view to open the Process Explorer DLL properties dialog. The image page revealed nothing of interest other than the fact that the driver had been linked in December of 2004. I turned my attention to the Strings tab to look for some hint as to the driver’s reason for existence. None of the few intelligible strings Process Explorer found in the image were unique except for the last one:
When a driver compiles the linker stores the path to the debug information file it generates, which has the extension .pdb, in the image. The path in this case appears to include the name of a company, “AegiSoft”. However, the http://www.aegisoft.com/ web site describes Aegis Software, Inc. as a company that creates “powerful, sophisticated and easy to use trading software and services for financial companies that demand performance, robustness, availability, and flexibility.” That doesn’t sound like a company that ships device drivers.
On a whim I did a Google search of “aegis” and came across this January 2001 news item announcing RealNetworks’ acquisition of Aegisoft Corp. (notice the difference in name from Aegis Software, Inc.). I knew I had RealPlayer installed on the system so I ran RealPlayer and confirmed that it uses the driver by doing a handle search for “asctrm”, the name of the device object I had seen in one of the driver’s strings:
Newer versions of RealPlayer don’t appear to include a device driver, but I have an old version on this system. I haven't gotten new release notifications because after installing RealPlayer I always use Autoruns to delete the HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run item that the RealPlayer setup creates to launch the Real Networks Scheduler at each boot. That Run entry, incidentally, is “TkBellExe”, another misleading label.
So the driver is not malicious after all (but is related to DRM, so agreement with that view depends on your feelings about DRM), however this example highlights the need for all software vendors (Microsoft included!) to clearly identify their applications and drivers in their version resources and in any associated Registry keys or values.
I’m still researching Vista User Account Control and so will blog on that in the near future.
Originally by Mark Russinovich on 3/27/2006 3:52:00 PM
Migrated from original Sysinternals.com/Blog