SimCity Always-Online DRM Lets Hackers Play Godzilla With Anyone's Cities

from the go-go-godzilla dept

It seems that everyone is giving EA and Maxis quite a bit of grief over the SimCity debacle. The game's launch was, um, not great. The backlash against the game's producers was worse, all the more so once the lying began. But late last week, new evidence was uncovered that suggests perhaps we've all been a little bit unfair to EA and Maxis. What if I told you that the always-online game architecture enabled you to be what all of us have secretly wanted to be since we were very, very little children?

Godzilla
Well, hello, childhood fantasy o' mine. I didn't see you standing there.
Image source: CC BY 2.0


Yes, as Kionae alerts us, one (unplanned?) consequence of requiring online saves for your SimCity games is that anyone with a bit of hacking skill can visit your city, put some Blue Oyster Cult on in the background, and wreak the kind of havoc normally reserved for Japanese nuclear monsters. See, you can, were you so inclined, enter the save game city of another person, and then completely edit or destroy their loving creation like some kind of digital psuedo-god.


Pictured: Omnipotence


Just so we're clear, this is only possible because of the EA always-online requirement.

It's still awesome because this hack is only as destructive as it is because of EA's decision to make the game always-on. If the game hadn't had always-on DRM then this hack wouldn't be half as devastating as it is. Having EA delete these kind of topics from their forums is great damage control but don't be surprised if there's another furor when people start raging on the forums when some hacker decides to go through and Godzilla everyone's town. Enjoy.
Enjoy indeed, as long as that enjoyment happens outside of EA's forums. As noted above, the company is enforcing their TOS rules on their forums and deleting all topics relating to these kinds of hacks. Why? Well, because when a dingo is chewing on your arm, the best defense is to place your noggin lovingly into some sand to make it all just disappear. Or, if that doesn't work, you could always just apologize for what is becoming the greatest video game debacle this side of a Duke Nukem game, but I'm not holding my breath.


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  1. identicon
    Noah Callaway, 18 Mar 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re:

    I disagree that the linked article actually provides support for the notion that these changes can affect the server.

    The first quote you cite appears to be the simply be the author's analysis (which appears to be incorrect).

    The second quote you cite is referring to a different situation where client-side files can affect server-side changes. However, these were players affecting things within their own city (such as city-size limits, etc). I imagine these things were always client enforced, and changing the client's rules had no effect on the server.

    The linked article also notes:

    "...however the modder notes that he turned off synching". This implies to me that an attack that caused the local-changes to be synched has not yet been performed. The quote from the modder further supports this:

    "I am worried about people that go deeper into the code and start spoofing the owner ID’s of cities and start doing this maliciously though. Hopefully there are server side safeties on this…"
    (from http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/03/hacker-finds-a-way-to-destroy-other-simcities-hasnt-used-his-power- for-evil/)

    It sounds like there has not yet been an attack where someone changes another person's city and successfully syncs it. The modder has noted that more work would remain before such an attack would be successful (spoofing the owner's ID). I'm not arguing that such an attack is impossible, but until it occurs this is a total non-event.

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