Mysterious Group Lands Denuvo Anti-Piracy Body Blow

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From nowhere, the previously unknown group 'SteamPunks' has delivered a crack for the popular game Dishonored 2 but with a potentially significant twist. Instead of taking the conventional route of hacked code, the group's solution is a key generator for Denuvo licenses. This presents the possibility that Denuvo might have been seriously compromised.

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.

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