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Dreadful DRM: Making a Comeback Under the Guise of “Anti-Cheating”

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By Nelson Schneider - 05/17/20 at 04:04 PM CT

We live in a world in which it has been statistically proven that piracy not only doesn’t harm media sales, but actually provides free advertising. Likewise, selling digital media in a DRM-free format, be it games, music, or whatever, allows sellers to improve their reputations among buyers by providing a better service that the pirates do.

But the Games Industry never did care to hear the facts, and has always insisted that DRM was necessary, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Recently, the push to foist DRM upon gamers has taken a new angle, ostensibly ‘protecting’ gamers in online games from ne’er-do-wells.

In recent weeks, Riot Games – the creator of toxic e-sport MOBA, “League of Legends” – introduced the concept of kernel-level anti-cheat software in its latest release, a meritless PvP FPS frag-fest called “Valorant.” Hot on the heels of this reveal, Denuvo – purveyor of ‘launch-window’ sales-protecting Denuvo Anti-Tamper DRM – revealed a new product, created in collaboration with security outfit, Irdeto, and sprung it on owners of “DOOM Eternal.” This new product, dubbed Denuvo Anti-Cheat is, like Riot’s latest unwanted gift, a kernel-level system driver that automatically runs alongside “DOOM Eternal” (and similarly-‘protected’ future releases) in order to ‘protect’ players from cheaters in online multi-player matches… yet the anti-cheat process runs even when the player is in single-player mode or LAN mode.

Anyone who has been paying attention to IT security, even a little bit, over the past two decades should understand that forcibly installing non-essential software processes at the deepest levels of the operating system is completely unnecessary and a REALLY bad idea. The entire push by Microsoft to foist its initially-loathed User Account Control system on Windows starting with Vista was all about slowly re-training both programmers and users into the modern mindset that software doesn’t – and shouldn’t – require administrative or kernel-level access just to function. Yet now we’re seeing a sudden proliferation of so-called ‘security’ software developers doing just the opposite, all in the name of ‘protecting’ the useless competitive modes in online games.

Any online game with a security team that knows what they’re doing will run all of their anti-cheat defenses server-side. What this push to get deep-access processes onto end-user machines is really all about is convincing the less-technically-literate amongst the gaming populace that they need DRM on their games to prevent cheaters from winning. It’s a covert-op and a bait-and-switch all in one!

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on05/31/20 at 04:11 PM CT

Consoles have root-level DRM built right into their operating systems. It's why we can't have Game Genies/Sharks anymore.

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Wrote on05/22/20 at 06:46 PM CT

That blog post of yours that you reference does not statistically prove what you say. NOT AT ALL. The title of that blog says "Copyright Infringement is Good for Everyone." I wanted to point this out because you changed a very important verb in that sentence. The article uses the terms "can be" and "might be" all the time. Basically, that study showed that copyright infringement is not necessarily always a bad thing for a company. It does NOT mean that it's always a good thing. Your twisting of words is quite disappointing.

I don't understand how you think companies shouldn't protect their intellectual property and that stealing it from them is alright. Not out that, but you constantly try to rationalize it here. Wow.

When you PC game this is a situation that is always present. Games have the ability to go places in your computer that you just don't want them to go. That will not go away. Console gamers don't really have to worry about this.

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