New Cracking Group May Have Delivered Denuvo Its Death Blow

from the we-hardly-knew-ye dept

Our posts about Denuvo have come at so furious a pace as of late that it feels silly to do any sort of recap here at the start of this post. If you aren't up on the DRM's saga, go read through our reporting, because it's a fascinating study in both hubris and inevitability in the DRM space. Suffice it to say that Denuvo was once thought to be an unbeatable DRM, except that in the past few months the timeline for breaking through it and cracking the games it is supposed to protect has been whittled down to mere days.

Through it all, Denuvo has made noise about the benefit of keeping games protected even for those first few days when games initially are released. Thanks to a new player in the group battling against Denuvo, it seems that claim may come to a dramatic and violent end. This chiefly has to do with the way a group calling itself SteamPunks cracked the Denuvo-protected game Dishonored 2.

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.

Now, VMProtect is the security software that Denuvo is currently being accused of having used within Denuvo without properly licensing it. That accusation was made semi-anonymously on internet forums by a purported VMProtect employee. Shortly after that accusation, both Denuvo and VMProtect seemed to indicate that the claims were not accurate, with VMProtect going as far as to say everything was now properly licensed. It also indicated that Denuvo had the proper licensing for its use in the past, though whether that was applied retroactively through a more recent purchase of licensing isn't entirely clear. Because of all of that combined with SteamPunks using VMProtect in a keygen aimed at destroying Denuvo, many are drawing the obvious conclusion: there's some relationship between SteamPunks and VMProtect, possibly from a disgruntled current or former employee.

That's speculation, of course. Less speculative is what the future holds for Denuvo if this keygen works as advertised. Denuvo would barely be a roadblock against piracy, meaning it may be time to start chiseling its tombstone.

Filed Under: cracking, denuvo, drm

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2017 @ 6:43am

    All the DRM pieces are based on the problem of piracy while insisting isn't a problem. Techdirt always CHEERS failure of DRM. Here's why.

    Techdirt's position is that DRM does more harm to the company than brings benefits. -- It's mere coincidence that makes theft easy for pirates.

    Yet the fools running companies just stubbornly continue to worry about piracy! Should just put products on torrent sites, and wait for the money to roll in, right? Why don't they take Techdirt's brilliant advice?

    Because if the cultural milieu were to shift fully to notion that all content / software should be free -- including without advertising -- then HOW EXACTLY does a company ever get any income?

    ... It doesn't. Piracy itself is possible only when small relative to the number of honest people who pay the pittance, else the system would collapse and no new products put out.

    Pirates are taking value, not trading. To protect easily-stolen intellectual work from the lazy and greedy is precisely why the Copyright and Patents Clauses are in the US Constitution. New gadgets don't change the moral ground though do facilitate theft from creators.

    The above seems a lucid argument to me, entirely supported by the last hundred years of mass entertainments. -- Mass re-production by gadgets made intellectual work MORE valuable, not less! Copyright has directly enriched millions of people, and offers the rest expensive-to-make entertainments for a pittance.

    But here at Techdirt every piece on copyright jeers at the very notion of "intellectual property", and especially jeers at attempts to get income if means controlling copies. They keep chanting "new business model" without ever a working example that doesn't actually rely on the current moral milieu, of creators deserving rewards, remaining in place.

    Repeats endlessly. The pirates here at Techdirt simply refuse to concede that creators have any rights at all. They don't have a cogent argument, only demands to be entertained for free.

    And that's why I conclude that Techdirt is simply piratey kids having no concern for producers.

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