Resident Evil 7 was released on January 24, 2017 to critical acclaim and stellar reviews, hailing this chapter in the iconic survival horror series as breathing new life into an otherwise lackluster catalog. Unfortunately, the game’s copyright protection was broken in just five days, leading to cracked copies leaking onto the internet over the January 28 weekend.
The hacking group CPY claimed credit for the crack, shattering Denuvo, a previously ironclad security and digital rights management (DRM) platform. Just a year ago when Denuvo first broke onto the scene, it was declared so unbreakable that several hacking collectives took a break from even attempting to crack the games. However, in the time since, over 20 Denuvo protected games have been cracked by CPY and other groups.
The reason this crack is so newsworthy is the speed of the crack. Denuvo uses checkpoints in the game’s code to implement its security, and each game has the checkpoints installed at different sections of code. With as huge as a AAA game’s code can be, finding these triggers was considered to be time-consuming. Hackers had to manually search through code to find one or two lines of concealed code to remove the copyright protection.
Depending on the game, cracking can take months, but in recent times, several high profile games have been cracked and released. Watch Dogs 2 was cracked in under two months. It was released on November 15, 2016, and a verified cracked copy hit the bit torrent sites in early January of 2017. Other high profile games that have had Denuvo broken are Doom, Far Cry: Primal, and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
According to the site TorrentFreak, CPY described how they were able to crack the games so quickly.
“They catched [sic] all triggers in the game and then memory patched the executable so triggers can be never executed. Also they patched the license checks and anti-debug checks. But every Denuvo game have its own pattern. Meaning that can take few days or a week for them to properly patch the next Denuvo game.”
Major video game publishers have taken to removing the Denuvo DRM protection from their games once the crack has taken place. When the Doom crack was released four months after it was released, Bethesda released a patch that swept Denuvo from the game’s code. According to a source on Reddit, part of the contract that Denuvo has with video game publishers is that if the DRM is cracked within a certain period, Denuvo will issue a refund to the publisher. Denuvo has denied that such a clause exists, but that hasn’t stopped speculation.
The five-day crack of Denuvo on Resident Evil 7 makes gamers curious if the hacking groups have gotten an edge on the previously iron-clad protection scheme. Denuvo has been around for over two years now, as it was released in 2014. When it was initially released, the Chinese hacking collective 3DM said that with advances in encryption techniques, they expected video game cracks to become nearly impossible. Of course, now that two years has gone by, it seems that 3DM was mistaken in their initial assessment.
In response to the crack, Denuvo marketing director Thomas Goebl told Eurogamer the following:
“Please note that we always position our Anti-Tamper solution as hard to crack, not as uncrackable. So far only one piracy group has been able to bypass it. 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. It’s correct that the title in question was cracked some days after release. 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.”
Regardless, there is now increased pressure from the gaming community and publishers to do away with any copyright protection scheme. Software distribution sites like GOG.com have been pushing for DRM-free games since their launch in 2008 as a subsidiary of CD Projekt.
What do you think of the speed at which CPY was able to crack Resident Evil 7? Do you think DRM and copyright protection schemes are a waste of time and money? Let us know in the comments below.
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