In a rather short session at the 2018 Python Language Summit, Larry
Hastings updated attendees on the status of his Gilectomy project. The aim of that effort is
to remove the global
interpreter lock (GIL) from CPython. Since his status report at last year’s summit, little
has happened, which is part of why the session was so short. He hasn’t
given up on the overall idea, but it needs a new approach.
At the 2018 Python Language Summit, Carl Shapiro described some of
the experiments that he and others at Instagram did to look at ways to
performance of the CPython interpreter.
The talk was somewhat academic in tone and built on what has been learned
in other dynamic languages over the years. By modifying the Python object
model fairly substantially, they were able to roughly double the performance
of the “classic” Richards benchmark.
Earlier this week, version 4.9 of the Denuvo anti-tamper system, which had protected Assassins Creed Origin for the past several months, was defeated by Italian cracking group CPY.
While Denuvo would probably paint four months of protection as a success, the company would certainly have preferred for things to have gone on a bit longer, not least following publisher Ubisoft’s decision to use VMProtect technology on top.
But while CPY do their thing in Italy there’s another rival whittling away at whatever the giants at Denuvo (and new owner Irdeto) can come up with. The cracker – known only as Voksi – hails from Bulgaria and this week he took the unusual step of releasing a 90-minute video (embedded below) in which he details how to defeat Denuvo’s V4 anti-tamper technology.
The video is not for the faint-hearted so those with an aversion to issues of a highly technical nature might feel the urge to look away. However, it may surprise readers to learn that not so long ago, Voksi knew absolutely nothing about coding.
“You will find this very funny and unbelievable,” Voksi says, recalling the events of 2012.
“There was one game called Sanctum and on one free [play] weekend [on Steam], I and my best friend played through it and saw how great the cooperative action was. When the free weekend was over, we wanted to keep playing, but we didn’t have any money to buy the game.
“So, I started to look for alternative ways, LAN emulators, anything! Then I decided I need to crack it. That’s how I got into reverse engineering. I started watching some shitty YouTube videos with bad quality and doing some tutorials. Then I found about Steam exploits and that’s how I got into making Steamworks fixes, allowing cracked multiplayer between players.”
Voksi says his entire cracking career began with this one indie game and his desire to play it with his best friend. Prior to that, he had absolutely no experience at all. He says he’s taken no university courses or any course at all for that matter. Everything he knows has come from material he’s found online. But the intrigue doesn’t stop there.
“I don’t even know how to code properly in high-level language like C#, C++, etc. But I understand assembly [language] perfectly fine,” he explains.
For those who code, that’s generally a little bit back to front, with low-level languages usually posing the most difficulties. But Voksi says that with assembly, everything “just clicked.”
Of course, it’s been six years since the 21-year-old was first motivated to crack a game due to lack of funds. In the more than half decade since, have his motivations changed at all? Is it the thrill of solving the puzzle or are there other factors at play?
“I just developed an urge to provide paid stuff for free for people who can’t afford it and specifically, co-op and multiplayer cracks. Of course, i’m not saying don’t support the developers if you have the money and like the game. You should do that,” he says.
“The challenge of cracking also motivates me, especially with an abomination like Denuvo. It is pure cancer for the gaming industry, it doesn’t help and it only causes issues for the paying customers.”
Those who follow Voksi online will know that as well as being known in his own right, he’s part of the REVOLT group, a collective that has Voksi’s core interests and goals as their own.
“REVOLT started as a group with one and only goal – to provide multiplayer support for cracked games. No other group was doing it until that day. It was founded by several members, from which I’m currently the only one active, still releasing cracks.
“Our great achievements are in first place, of course, cracking Denuvo V4, making us one of the four groups/people who were able to break the protection. In second place are our online fixes for several AAA games, allowing you to play on legit servers with legit players. In third place, our ordinary Steamworks fixes allowing you to play multiplayer between cracked users.”
In communities like /r/crackwatch on Reddit and those less accessible, Voksi and others doing similar work are often held up as Internet heroes, cracking games in order to give the masses access to something that might’ve been otherwise inaccessible. But how does this fame sit with him?
“Well, I don’t see myself as a hero, just another ordinary person doing what he loves. I love seeing people happy because of my work, that’s also a big motivation, but nothing more than that,” he says.
Finally, what’s up next for Voksi and what are his hopes for the rest of the year?
“In an ideal world, Denuvo would die. As for me, I don’t know, time will tell,” he concludes.
It’s fair to say that of all video games anti-piracy technologies, Denuvo is perhaps the most hated of recent times. That hatred unsurprisingly stems from both its success and complexity.
Those with knowledge of the system say it’s fiendishly difficult to defeat but in recent times, cracks have been showing. In 2017, various iterations of the anti-tamper system were defeated by several cracking groups, much to the delight of the pirate masses.
Now, however, a new development has the potential to herald a new lease of life for the Austria-based anti-piracy company. A few moments ago it was revealed that the company has been bought by Irdeto, a global anti-piracy company with considerable heritage and resources.
“Irdeto has acquired Denuvo, the world leader in gaming security, to provide anti-piracy and anti-cheat solutions for games on desktop, mobile, console and VR devices,” Irdeto said in a statement.
“Denuvo provides technology and services for game publishers and platforms, independent software vendors, e-publishers and video publishers across the globe. Current Denuvo customers include Electronic Arts, UbiSoft, Warner Bros and Lionsgate Entertainment, with protection provided for games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Football Manager, Injustice 2 and others.”
Irdeto says that Denuvo will “continue to operate as usual” with all of its staff retained – a total of 45 across Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the US. Denuvo headquarters in Salzburg, Austria, will also remain intact along with its sales operations.
“The success of any game title is dependent upon the ability of the title to operate as the publisher intended,” says Irdeto CEO Doug Lowther.
“As a result, protection of both the game itself and the gaming experience for end users is critical. Our partnership brings together decades of security expertise under one roof to better address new and evolving security threats. We are looking forward to collaborating as a team on a number of initiatives to improve our core technology and services to better serve our customers.”
Denuvo was founded relatively recently in 2013 and employs less than 50 people. In contrast, Irdeto’s roots go all the way back to 1969 and currently has almost 1,000 staff. It’s a subsidiary of South Africa-based Internet and media group Naspers, a corporate giant with dozens of notable companies under its control.
While Denuvo is perhaps best known for its anti-piracy technology, Irdeto is also placing emphasis on the company’s ability to hinder cheating in online multi-player gaming environments. This has become a hot topic recently, with several lawsuits filed in the US by companies including Blizzard and Epic.
Denuvo CEO Reinhard Blaukovitsch
“Hackers and cybercriminals in the gaming space are savvy, and always have been. It is critical to implement robust security strategies to combat the latest gaming threats and protect the investment in games. Much like the movie industry, it’s the only way to ensure that great games continue to get made,” says Denuvo CEO Reinhard Blaukovitsch.
“In joining with Irdeto, we are bringing together a unique combination of security expertise, technology and enhanced piracy services to aggressively address security challenges that customers and gamers face from hackers.”
While it seems likely that the companies have been in negotiations for some, the timing of this announcement also coincides with negative news for Denuvo.
Yesterday it was revealed that the latest variant of its anti-tamper technology – Denuvo v4.8 – had been defeated by online cracking group CPY (Conspiracy). Version 4.8 had been protecting Sonic Forces since its release early November 2017 but the game was leaked out onto the Internet late Sunday with all protection neutralized.
Sonic Forces cracked by CPY
Irdeto has a long history of acquiring anti-piracy companies and technologies. They include Lockstream (DRM for content on mobile phones), Philips Cryptoworks (DVB conditional access system), Cloakware (various security), Entriq (media protection), BD+ (Blu-ray protection), and BayTSP (anti-piracy monitoring).
It’s also noteworthy that Irdeto supplied behind-the-scenes support in two of the largest IPTV provider raids of recent times, one focused on Spain in 2017 and more recently in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and the Netherlands (1,2,3).
As all Python developers discover sooner or later, Python is a rapidly
evolving language whose community occasionally makes changes that can break
existing programs. The switch to Python 3 is the most prominent
example, but minor releases can include significant changes as well. The
CPython interpreter can emit warnings for upcoming incompatible changes,
giving developers time to prepare their code, but those warnings are
suppressed and invisible by default. Work is afoot to make them visible,
but doing so is not as straightforward as it might seem.
At the end of September we reported on a nightmare scenario for videogame anti-tamper technology Denuvo.
With cracking groups chipping away at the system for the past few months, progressing in leaps and bounds, the race to the bottom was almost complete. After aiming to hold off pirates for the first few lucrative weeks and months after launch, the Denuvo-protected Total War: Warhammer 2 fell to pirates in a matter of hours.
In the less than two weeks that have passed since, things haven’t improved much. By most measurements, in fact, the situation appears to have gotten worse.
On Wednesday, action role-playing game Middle Earth: Shadow of War was cracked a day after launch. While this didn’t beat the record set by Warhammer 2, the scene was given an unexpected gift.
Instead of the crack appearing courtesy of scene groups STEAMPUNKS or CPY, which has largely been the tradition thus far this year, old favorite CODEX stepped up to the mark with their own efforts. This means there are now close to half a dozen entities with the ability to defeat Denuvo, which isn’t a good look for the anti-piracy outfit.
A CODEX crack for Denuvo, from nowhere
Needless to say, this development was met with absolute glee by pirates, who forgave the additional day taken to crack the game in order to welcome CODEX into the anti-Denuvo club. But while this is bad news for the anti-tamper technology, there could be a worse enemy crossing the horizon – no confidence.
This Tuesday, DSO Gaming reported that it had received a review copy of Bethesda’s then-upcoming survival horror game, The Evil Within 2. The site, which is often a reliable source for Denuvo-related news, confirmed that the code was indeed protected by Denuvo.
“Another upcoming title that will be using Denuvo is The Evil Within 2,” the site reported. “Bethesda has provided us with a review code for The Evil Within 2. As such, we can confirm that Denuvo is present in it.”
As you read this, October 13, 2017, The Evil Within 2 is enjoying its official worldwide launch. Early yesterday afternoon, however, the title leaked early onto the Internet, courtesy of cracking group CODEX.
At first view, it looked like CODEX had cracked Denuvo before the game’s official launch but the reality was somewhat different after the dust had settled. For reasons best known to developer Bethesda, Denuvo was completely absent from the title. As shown by the title’s NFO (information) file, the only protection present was that provided by Steam.
Denuvo? What Denuvo?
This raises a number of scenarios, none of them good for Denuvo.
One possibility is that all along Bethesda never intended to use Denuvo on the final release. Exactly why we’ll likely never know, but the theory doesn’t really gel with them including it in the review code reviewed by DSO Gaming earlier this week.
The other proposition is that Bethesda witnessed the fiasco around Denuvo’s ‘protection’ in recent days and decided not to invest in something that wasn’t going to provide value for money.
Of course, these theories are going to be pretty difficult to confirm. Denuvo are a pretty confident bunch when things are going their way but they go suspiciously quiet when the tide is turning. Equally, developers tend to keep quiet about their anti-piracy strategies too.
The bottom line though is that if the protection really works and turns in valuable cash, why wouldn’t Bethesda use it as they have done on previous titles including Doom and Prey?
With that question apparently answering itself at the moment, all eyes now turn to Denuvo. Although it has a history of being one of the most successful anti-piracy systems overall, it has taken a massive battering in recent times. Will it recover? Only time will tell but at the moment things couldn’t get much worse.
Needing little introduction, the anti-piracy system sold by Denuvo Software Solutions of Austria is probably the most well-known product of its type of the planet.
For years, Denuvo was considered pretty much impenetrable, with its presence a virtual stamp of assurance that a game being protected by it would not fall victim to piracy, potentially for years. In recent times, however, things have begun to crumble.
Strangely, it started in early 2016 with bad news. Chinese cracking group 3DM declared that Denuvo was probably uncrackable and no protected games would appear online during the next two years.
By June, however, hope appeared on the horizon, with hints that progress was being made. By August 2016, all doubts were removed when a group called CONSPIR4CY (a reported collaboration between CPY and CODEX) released Rise of the Tomb Raider.
After that, Denuvo-protected titles began dropping like flies, with some getting cracked weeks after their launch. Then things got serious.
Now, however, Denuvo has suffered its biggest failure yet, with strategy game Total War: Warhammer 2 falling to pirates in less than a day, arguably just a few hours. It was cracked by STEAMPUNKS, a group that’s been dumping cracked games on the Internet at quite a rate for the past few months.
“Take this advice, DO NOT CODE a new installer when you have very hot Babes dancing in their bikini just in front of you. Never again,” the group said in a statement. “This time we locked ourselves inside and produced a new installer.”
The fall of this game in such a short space of time will be of major concern to Denuvo Software Solutions. After Resident Evil 7 was cracked in days earlier this year, Denuvo Marketing Director Thomas Goebl told Eurogamer that some protection was better than nothing.
“Given the fact that every unprotected title is cracked on the day of release — as well as every update of games — our solution made a difference for this title,” he said.
With yesterday’s 0-day crack of Total War: Warhammer 2, it can be argued that Denuvo made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the availability of the title. It didn’t even protect the initial launch window.
Goebl’s additional comment in the summer was that “so far only one piracy group has been able to bypass [Denuvo].” Now, just a handful of months later, there are several groups with the ability. That’s not a good look for the company.
Back in 2016, Denuvo co-founder Robert Hernandez told Kotaku that the company does not give refunds. It would be interesting to know if anything has changed there too.
Kees Cook highlights
the security-related changes in the 4.13 kernel.
“Daniel Micay created a version of glibc’s FORTIFY_SOURCE
compile-time and run-time protection for finding overflows in the common
string (e.g. strcpy, strcmp) and memory (e.g. memcpy, memcmp)
functions. The idea is that since the compiler already knows the size of
many of the buffer arguments used by these functions, it can already build
in checks for buffer overflows. When all the sizes are known at compile
time, this can actually allow the compiler to fail the build instead of
continuing with a proven overflow. When only some of the sizes are known
(e.g. destination size is known at compile-time, but source size is only
known at run-time) run-time checks are added to catch any cases where an
overflow might happen. Adding this found several places where minor leaks
were happening, and Daniel and I chased down fixes for them.”
CPython is the reference implementation of Python, so it is,
unsurprisingly, the target for various language-extension modules. But the
API and ABI it provides to those extensions ends up limiting what
alternative Python implementations—and even CPython itself—can do, since
those interfaces must continue to be supported. Beyond that, though, the
are not clearly delineated, so changes can unexpectedly affect extensions
that have come to depend on them. A recent thread on the python-ideas
mailing list looks at how to clean that situation up.
At PyCon 2017, Kavya Joshi looked
at some of the differences between the Python reference implementation
(known as “CPython”) and
that of MicroPython. In particular,
she described the differences in memory use and handling between the two.
Those differences are
what allows MicroPython to run on the severely memory-constrained
microcontrollers it targets—an environment that could never support CPython.
While there’s always excitement in piracy land over the release of a new movie or TV show, video gaming fans really know how to party when a previously uncracked game appears online.
When that game was protected by the infamous Denuvo anti-piracy system, champagne corks explode.
There’s been a lot of activity in this area during recent months but more recently there’s been a noticeable crescendo. As more groups have become involved in trying to defeat the system, Denuvo has looked increasingly vulnerable. Over the past 24 hours, it’s looked in serious danger.
The latest drama surrounds DISHONORED.2-STEAMPUNKS, which is a pirate release of the previously uncracked action adventure game Dishonored 2. The game uses Denuvo protection and at the rate titles have been falling to pirates lately, it’s appearance wasn’t a surprise. However, the manner in which the release landed online has sent shockwaves through the scene.
The cracking scene is relatively open these days, in that people tend to have a rough idea of who the major players are. Their real-life identities are less obvious, of course, but names like CPY, Voksi, and Baldman regularly appear in discussions.
The same cannot be said about SteamPunks. With their topsite presence, they appear to be a proper ‘Scene’ group but up until yesterday, they were an unknown entity.
It’s fair to say that this dramatic appearance from nowhere raised quite a few eyebrows among the more suspicious crack aficionados. That being said, SteamPunks absolutely delivered – and then some.
Rather than simply pre-crack (remove the protection) from Dishonored 2 and then deliver it to the public, the SteamPunks release appears to contain code which enables the user to generate Denuvo licenses on a machine-by-machine basis.
If that hasn’t sunk in, the theory is that the ‘key generator’ might be able to do the same with all Denuvo-protected releases in future, blowing the system out of the water.
While that enormous feat remains to be seen, there is an unusual amount of excitement surrounding this release and the emergence of the previously unknown SteamPunks. In the words of one Reddit user, the group has delivered the cracking equivalent of The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, yet no one appears to have had any knowledge of them before yesterday.
Only adding to the mystery is the lack of knowledge relating to how their tool works. Perhaps ironically, perhaps importantly, SteamPunks have chosen to protect their code with VMProtect, the software system that Denuvo itself previously deployed to stop people reverse-engineering its own code.
This raises two issues. One, people could have difficulty finding out how the license generator works and two, it could potentially contain something nefarious besides the means to play Dishonored 2 for free.
With the latter in mind, a number of people in the cracking community have been testing the release but thus far, no one has found anything untoward. That doesn’t guarantee that it’s entirely clean but it does help to calm nerves. Indeed, cracking something as difficult as Denuvo in order to put out some malware seems a lot of effort when the same could be achieved much more easily.
“There is no need to break into Fort Knox to give out flyers for your pyramid scheme,” one user’s great analogy reads.
That being said, people with experience are still urging caution, which should be the case for anyone running a cracked game, no matter who released it.
Finally, another twist in the Denuvo saga arrived yesterday courtesy of VMProtect. As widely reported, someone from the company previously indicated that Denuvo had been using its VMProtect system without securing an appropriate license.
The source said that legal action was on the horizon but an announcement from VMProtect yesterday suggests that the companies are now seeing eye to eye.
“We were informed that there are open questions and some uncertainty about the use of our software by DENUVO GmbH,” VMProtect said.
“Referring to this circumstance we want to clarify that DENUVO GmbH had the right to use our software in the past and has the right to use it currently as well as in the future. In summary, no open issues exist between DENUVO GmbH and VMProtect Software for which reason you may ignore any other divergent information.”
While the above tends to imply there’s never been an issue, a little more information from VMProtect dev Ivan Permyakov may indicate that an old dispute has since been settled.
“Information about our relationship with Denuvo Software has long been outdated and irrelevant,” he said.
At the 2016 Python Language Summit, Larry Hastings introduced Gilectomy, his project to remove
the global interpreter lock (GIL) from CPython. The GIL serializes access
to the Python interpreter, so it severely limits the performance of
multi-threaded Python programs. At the 2017 summit, Hastings was back to
update attendees on the progress he has made and where Gilectomy is headed.
As part of a discussion in 2014 about where to host some of
the Python repositories,
Brett Cannon was delegated the task of determining where they should end
up. In early 2016, he decided that Python’s
other repositories (e.g. PEPs) should land at GitHub;
at last year’s language
summit, he gave an overview of where things
stood with a few repositories that had made the conversion. Since that
time, the CPython
repository has made the switch and he wanted to discuss some of the
workflow issues surrounding that move at this year’s summit.
When file-sharing was first getting off the ground, groups like the RIAA and MPAA were public enemy number one. They’re not exactly popular now but neither receive the hatred liberally poured on Denuvo.
The brainchild of Austria-based Denuvo Software Solutions GmbH, Denuvo is an anti-tamper technology designed to protect underlying DRM products. It’s been successfully deployed on gaming titles but just recently it’s iron skin has been showing the cracks.
After all previous versions were defeated, in January version three of Denuvo fell to pirates with the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard just five days after its street date. It was a landmark moment for a scene that had grown accustomed to Denuvo-protected games trickling down into the piracy scene months after their retail debut.
But while celebrations got underway, it seemed unlikely that Denuvo would simply sit back and take a beating. Indeed, within days of the crack, Denuvo marketing director Thomas Goebl told Eurogamer that improvements to Denuvo were underway.
“As always, we continue working to improve our solution to create security updates for upcoming Anti-Tamper versions. We will do the same with the learning from this bypass,” Goebl said.
With all eyes primed for a release of a game using the new technology (the cracking scene has labeled it Denuvo v4), earlier this month Mass Effect Andromeda was cracked by CPY, the group behind most of Denuvo’s recent pain. Despite some early claims, the title was actually protected by v3, so the big test was yet to arrive.
Yesterday it did so, in some style.
With its usual fanfare, cracking group CPY announced that it had defeated Denuvo v4 protection on 2Dark, a lesser-known stealth adventure game from the creator of Alone in the Dark.
As seen from the dates in the release notes above, the crack took a little over a month following 2Dark’s street date. Denuvo are still likely to claim that as a victory, since the first few weeks of sales were allowed to go ahead piracy-free. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is the new version of Denuvo which was supposed to put the anti-tamper company back out in front.
With celebrations now at fever pitch in game piracy land, there’s an interesting angle to the cracking of 2Dark. First of all, it’s apparent that the majority of people are more excited about Denuvo v4 being cracked than they are at the prospect of playing the game. However, the cracking of 2Dark is being seen as particularly sweet for other reasons.
About a month ago, a poster to Reddit’s /r/crackwatch highlighted that the developers of 2Dark had made some promises they later failed to keep.
It appears that during a 2014 crowdfunding campaign (French) for 2Dark, developer Gloomywood was asked whether there would be any DRM added to the game. For many game players this would be a deal-breaker, especially if they were the ones financing the game. Here’s the assurance that contributors received back.
On the game’s Steam page, the truth later emerged with a note confirming that the title would incorporate “3rd-party DRM: Denuvo Antitamper.” According to a subsequent interview with Techraptor, that was a result of Gloomywood having to team up with publisher Bigben Interactive who insisted on the protection.
Now all eyes are turning to potential forthcoming releases from CPY, each protected by Denuvo v4. Will Nier Automata, Dead Rising 4, and Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition fall as well? It probably won’t be long before we find out.
Известно време се чудех как може цялото нещо да стане без никакъв branch, т.е. и без проверката за край на цикъла. Първоначалната ми идея беше да я карам на асемблер и да използвам като в exploit-ите NOP sled, нещо от типа (извинете ме за калпавия асемблер):
; fizzbuzz implementation
; i is in RAX
MOV RBX, 0
SUB RBX, RAX
SUB RBX, $LENGTH
SUB EIP, RBX
Или, накратко, колкото повече се увеличава i, толкова повече скачам назад с релативния JMP (който съм написал като вадене на нещо от EIP, което най-вероятно изобщо не е валидно), докато не ударя JMP, който ме изхвърля. Като оптимизация бях решил, че мога да shift-вам стойността с 4, така че sled-а да е само 25 броя.
В един момент ми хрумна, че мога да мина и без sled-а, като правя деление (което е отвратителна операция, но спестява кофа nop-ове). Така се получи по-горния вариант на C, който не е съвсем C, а просто някаква странна асемблероподобна гняс.
Иначе, важно е да се отбележи, че на какъвто и да е модерен процесор по-горния код е далеч по-неефективен от простото решение с if-ове, най-вече защото branch prediction и всички други екстри се справят много добре с всякаквите if-ове, но доста по-трудно могат да се сетят тия jmp-ове към таблици базирани на някакви стойности къде точно ще идат, за да се прави спекулативното изпълнение. Не съм си играл да benchmark-вам (въпреки, че имам желание), но като цяло горния код има шанс да се справя по-добре само на неща като 8086 и компания.
И като идея за следващата подобна мизерия, може би може да се оптимизира истински чрез ползване на някое от разширенията за работа с вектори/големи стойности и се unroll-не цикъла, например да се прави на стъпки от по 4 с някаква инструкция, която смята делители (кой-знае какви странни неща има вкарани вече в x86 instruction set-а).
Anti-piracy outfit Denuvo has taken a bit of a battering lately after chinks began appearing in the company’s armor. Last weekend, cracking group CPY defeated the protection on Resident Evil 7 in just five days, a record for the anti-tamper technology.
Just a week on, Denuvo has more problems to deal with. For reasons best known to them, the company has left several private directories on its website open to the public, as shown in the image below.
Most of the content appears relatively mundane but hidden away in the logs directory is an 11MB text file called Ajax.log, which appears to contain customer support emails dating back to 2014. While some are from companies looking to hire Denuvo, a notable email in slightly broken English appears to have been sent by Capcom.
“This is Jun Matsumoto from CAPCOM Japan. I have a interested in the Denuvo Anti-Tamper solution to protect our game software. If you have a white paper about details, please send me. (ex. platform, usage, price, etc…) And, if you have a sales agent in Japan, please tell me the contact point. Thank you for your cooperations,” it reads.
Another was sent by Jan Newger of Google, who wanted to learn more about Denuvo.
“I’m working in the security team at Google, and would like to evaluate the denuvo product to get an understanding on how it would integrate with existing solutions,” it reads.
“I’m specifically interested in further strengthening existing solutions to hinder understanding/tampering with binary programs. Is it possible to obtain some kind of demo version of the product? Also, could you send a quote to me?
But for every business opportunity, there are dozens of emails from angry pirates, each looking to vent their anger.
“Why do you have to make such shit software to fuck over pc gamers with DRM bullshit. Please inform the companies you work with that if your DRM is implemented on games they are selling, they will lose thousands of customers. Thanks,” wrote someone identifying themselves as Angry Customer.
While any leak of confidential data is a serious event, this developing situation appears to be getting worse. Within the last few minutes, more insecure directories have been discovered, some of them containing relatively large files.
Needless to say, the contents of these files will be of great interest to Denuvo’s adversaries. With that in mind, TF headed over to a platform where crackers meet and sure enough, they are extremely excited and all over this breach. Thus far it appears that most of the files have been downloaded, including one that appears to contain access logs for Denuvo’s website and others which carry executables.
It’s too early to say exactly what these files do but crackers will be hoping for any piece of information or clue explaining how Denuvo works and how it can be defeated. Another bad week for Denuvo is quickly getting worse.
Death. Taxes. Immediate PC games piracy. That was pretty much the state of play before anti-piracy technology company Denuvo Software Solutions came along a few years back.
With its anti-tamper system of the same name, Denuvo took the inevitability of day-of-release PC games piracy and pushed back the boundaries in a way never seen before. Indeed, some older Denuvo-protected games are still piracy free to this day.
In recent times, however, the company has found itself under increasing pressure. In August 2016, cracking group CONSPIR4CY (CPY) dumped a Denuvo-removed version of Rise of the Tomb Raider on torrent sites, some five months after its release. Despite the long delay, it was a landmark moment. Denuvo had been defeated.
Just days later, CPY doubled down by giving puzzle-platformer ‘Inside‘ the same treatment, but in a record time of just six weeks from launch. What followed was a cascade of cracked games, including Doom, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Watch Dogs 2, to name just a few. Now, however, Denuvo is facing its biggest threat yet.
Yesterday, just five days after its January 24th retail date, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was cracked by CPY. The self-proclaimed Italian group placed RE7 on a so-called top site, with the ‘piracy pyramid‘ doing the rest of the work by cascading it to torrent sites in a matter of minutes. Currently, tens of thousands of pirates are grabbing the 23GB download.
In its defense, Denuvo has never marketed its product as an uncrackable system. The plan, the company insists, is to give games producers a piracy-free window of opportunity, from the day of launch to some undefined point in the future. Protecting those lucrative early months from pirates is the aim.
In some respects, Denuvo is still doing its job, with AAA titles such as Just Cause 3 still protected from piracy months after launch. No one but groups like CPY know why JC3 has avoided the same fate as the other titles. It could just be that they can’t be bothered to crack it. Clearly, the same cannot be said about Resident Evil 7.
Denuvo is obviously a tough system to crack but less than a week’s protection is only marginally better than having no protection at all. Pirates are notoriously impatient but a sizeable majority can probably wait a handful of days for a free game, if they believe CPY can keep pulling this off. That in itself is a problem for Denuvo and the games publishers it’s attempting to protect.
In December, Denuvo refuted claims that it gives publishers refunds if the protection it offers subsequently gets removed.
“We can’t comment on our deals with specific customers, but we do not have any deals in place that offer refunds if a game is cracked within a specific time frame,” Denuvo co-founder Robert Hernandez said.
That being said, publishers must be paying something to have Denuvo protect their titles so it’s reasonable to assume that a year’s protection must be worth more than a month. But when we get down to five days? That surely must involve some kind of discount to deter a debate over whether the protection is worth having at all.
The Google Open Source Blog introduces
the Grumpy project. “Grumpy is an experimental Python runtime
for Go. It translates Python code into Go programs, and those transpiled
programs run seamlessly within the Go runtime. We needed to support a large
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First-person shooter Doom is among 2016’s biggest AAA releases. A highly desirable title with an outstanding back-story and pedigree, it was bound to be a target for pirates.
However, following its release in May, Doom did not immediately hit pirate networks. Like so many other big games, its makers had invested in anti-piracy technology supplied by Austria’s Denuvo Software Solutions.
In the end it took around four months for Doom to appear in unauthorized form after being cracked by scene group CPY. Then, earlier this month, developer Bethesda removed Denuvo from the game altogether.
This development triggered much speculation which was only intensified by claims from a developer that Denuvo offers refunds to studios and publishers if their games are cracked within a set period.
“I do want to explain what happened here. Denuvo Software Solutions offers a guarantee, if your Denuvo game is cracked within a certain time (3 months is normal), you do not have to pay for Denuvo,” he said.
While the iteration of Denuvo protecting Doom was cracked just outside this period, the dev’s claims seemed to make sense. The only point of a copy protection technology is to stop games getting pirated, if only for a short length of time, so some kind of guarantee would be a reasonable requirement.
However, in an interview with Kotaku, Denuvo co-founder Robert Hernandez said that the protection was removed from Doom because it had served its purpose. He also denied issuing refunds.
“The simple reason why Denuvo Anti Tamper was removed from Doom was because it had accomplished its purpose by keeping the game safe from piracy during the initial sales window,” Hernandez said.
“The protection on Doom held up for nearly four months, which is an impressive accomplishment for such a high-profile game.”
In that respect, Hernandez is absolutely right. A third of a year is a respectable period for a game developer to begin recovering its costs and a far cry from the “cracked before launch” situation the PC games market was suffering from a few years ago.
However, even with Denuvo having outlived its usefulness on Doom, Hernandez denied anyone at Bethesda was getting their money back.
“We can’t comment on our deals with specific customers, but we do not have any deals in place that offer refunds if a game is cracked within a specific time frame,” he said.
Of course, all of these kinds of statements are open to interpretation. Clearly, Denuvo has to perform and no developer in the world is going to pay for something that fails to live up to its billing of being able to protect the title during its launch period.
So, if there really aren’t any cash-back guarantees and no crystal balls, it seems reasonable to presume that Denuvo customers pay for its protection based on real-world performance.
Denuvo obviously isn’t sharing its deals in public, but protecting the first month would definitely be the most valuable option (and potentially most costly) for developers. A further couple of months of protection would be desirable too but as sales go up and the potential customer base diminishes, so does the value of paying for protection.
If we believe Denuvo that there are no refunds, there seems to be little value in buying six months worth of protection up front on a gamble. Paying by actual performance and longevity would make the most sense.
The developer who made the original claims about refunds did insist that studios would have to remove Denuvo from their games after they stopped paying for protection. At least in some form, this appears to have happened with Doom. After all, one of the supposed selling points of Denuvo is that it doesn’t hurt gaming performance, so if it’s been paid for already, why not simply leave it in place?
That being said, Hernandez told Kotaku that the removal was the publisher’s decision.
“[E]ach publisher is of course free to remove our anti tamper tech from their title once they feel the protection has achieved its purpose in protecting the initial sales window, or if they have other reasons for doing so, such as selling the title on DRM-free platforms,” he said.
Finally, what is perhaps most interesting about Denuvo is the fact that despite it being a little more vulnerable in recent months, it still generates plenty of discussion. That in itself shows that the technology is still an irritant to pirates and for games developers, that’s nearly always something worth paying for.
With piracy now an accepted part of video game culture, the main aim of developers is to stop their games leaking in the early days, weeks and months following their launch.
It’s suggested that this piracy-free window of opportunity might allow the bigger and more ambitious titles to recoup much of the money spent creating them. No surprise then that companies are offering solutions to achieve that aim.
The main technology facilitating this breathing space today is Denuvo. This anti-tamper technology sits on top of other DRM, making the majority of games completely uncrackable. However, in more recent months, Denuvo protection has come under fire from a group calling itself CPY.
As a result, more and more Denuvo-protected games are appearing free-to-play online, having had their protections circumvented. But as pirates celebrate, something unexpected is happening. Having been cracked by CPY, some games are having Denuvo removed by their developers.
The latest case involves first-person shooter, Doom. As one of 2016’s biggest AAA releases, Doom is a highly desirable title so it was no surprise it was protected by Denuvo following its release in May.
However, the game was cracked relatively quickly by CPY and began appearing on piracy networks early September. Now developer Bethesda has removed Denuvo from the game altogether.
NFO file from CPY announcing their defeat of Doom’s protection
If one looks at the situation logically, it makes some sense that after Denuvo has served its main purpose, it’s technically no longer needed and can be removed. However, after paying out for Denuvo protection (which is rumored to cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per game), why would developers like Bethesda just not leave it intact?
For some time there have been theories that some kind of refund might be available to developers if Denuvo protection fails to live up to its billing. Some meat has now been put on the bones of that suggestion by a Reddit user who claims to be a games developer at a company using Denuvo.
“Game dev here, I work for a large studio that started using Denuvo recently. I’m neutral on piracy and pirate TV shows a lot, so don’t give me a hard time, certainly not here to judge,” he wrote in a post a few hours ago.
“I do want to explain what happened here. Denuvo Software Solutions offers a guarantee, if your Denuvo game is cracked within a certain time (3 months is normal), you do not have to pay for Denuvo. Part of claiming the refund is you must remove Denuvo from your game.”
In the case of Doom, Denuvo was cracked by CPY four months after release but since it’s one of the bigger titles, it’s conceivable that a longer period could still be eligible for some kind of refund. Ultimately, Denuvo claims that its protection pays for itself so when a game appears online too soon, it may not have reached its goals.
“One of the reasons why the management of my company used it, they think it is a no lose situation. I personally think it is more nuanced,” the developer explains.
“Denuvo is expensive and my management think we lose a fortune to piracy because the industry inflates the figures as I think most of you all know. My management buy in to the inflated figures and Denuvo Software Solutions of course uses them also.
“Obviously I’m just a developer so not aware of the numbers but eventually I’ll find out if Denuvo helped, my educated guess is that it won’t help improve sales figures as much as the management hope. To protect a AAA game, Denuvo charge high 7 figure sums,” he concludes.
Last month, Denuvo was also removed from the adventure game ‘Inside’. That title was released in July but was cracked by CPY in just six weeks, the fastest Denuvo defeat on record.
With two titles setting the trend and another on the horizon, we shouldn’t have to wait long to see if a pattern emerges. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was released in August and exactly three months later it was cracked by CPY. If the pattern follows, Denuvo should disappear from that title in a couple of months.
How all of this will affect Denuvo’s sales remains to be seen since the company’s protection, while still formidable, is not the titan it once was. It does, however, still cover those crucial early months pretty well and that’s probably acceptable to most of those involved.
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