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Assasin's Creed installs dangerous software -- can we say "class action lawsuit"?

Google, Inc. (GOOG) engineer Tavis Ormandy has created a world of woe for French software giant Ubisoft Entertainment S.A. (EPA:UBI) after he revealed that the company was endangering customers by installing dangerous software that opened a back-door to their machines.

Ubisoft is well known for its best-selling Assassin's Creed, Rayman, and Far Cry franchises, as well as a number of Tom Clancy titles (e.g. the Splinter Cell series).  But according to Mr. Ormandy, Ubisoft's recent software comes with a dangerous attachment -- a browser plugin designed to support the company's secured Uplay service.

The browser plug-in acts as an accidental Trojan, allows arbitrary code execution via the opened "door" inside the affected browser.  Ubisoft uses the plugin to check if the installed title is valid, allowing gamers access to online play and achievements.  But according to Mr. Ormandy hackers could also exploit the open door in escalation of privileges attacks on the users' machine.

Hundreds of thousands of PC gamers are believed to be affected.

Uplay Uplay
Ubisoft Uplay browser plugin allowed unauthorized acceess to users' machines.
[Image Source:]

Affected titles include 5 Assassin’s Creed games, 3 Tom Clancy games, as well as popular titles such as Driver: San Francisco, and Settlers 7.  Mr. Ormandy first observed the exploitable plug-in while installing Assassin's Creed: Revelations.

Assassin's Creed
The exploitable plug-in came with installs of Assassin's Creed titles. [Image Source: IGN]

Ubisoft had already upset customers with its DRM scheme, as many complained that they had legitimately purchased titles, but were being locked out of gameplay when their machines were offline.  Ubisoft defended this policy.

Now it may be forced to defend itself in court against class action lawsuits for endangering its loyal customers.

The incident is eerily reminiscent to the rootkit discovered on Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) music CDs several years ago.  Sony was subsequently sued and forced into an apology/settlement for recklessly endangering its users.

Note: As the plug-in does not mask its presence, in its current form it is closer to an exploitable plug-in aka. an accidental Trojan than a rootkit by definition, hence the text was changed to correct this.

Sources: SecLists, Geek, Ycombinator News

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RE: DRM should be illegal
By sprockkets on 7/30/2012 3:01:41 PM , Rating: 3
You can get a torrent, but that doesn't guarantee online play, nor getting future updates.

And if it is reasonably priced like on steam, convenience trumps piracy.

As I just noted above, there only needs to be 1 person in the world who can defeat the DRM - and then *poof* it's all over. The software is in a torrent, and everybody can have at it.

Not really. Windows 7 was cracked, then MS patched the holes. Then another crack worked, and then was patched. While you can use Win7 without updates, MS has made it inconvenient enough to not make it worthwhile (like not being able to use their a/v).

Also, people jailbreak iphones as well, but it is going to be much harder to exploit with memory address randomization and other techniques to foil hacking. The goal again, is to make it worth while to pay for apps instead of pirating.

You can't tell me apple's encrypting apps and secure app store hasn't affected piracy. Even google is going to encrypt paid apps for 4.1 with the intent of telling developers that they want them to make money selling their apps.

RE: DRM should be illegal
By Motoman on 7/30/2012 3:21:54 PM , Rating: 2
You can have an endless cycle of patching and hacking. It will never end.

The fact of the matter is that AT BEST DRM needlessly costs the publisher and consumer more money for no effect at preventing someone, somewhere in the world, from creating a pirated copy and posting it on the internet. At worst, it punishes legitimate consumers with onerous restrictions on what they can do with their product and can make their computers unstable and/or open to attack. That's the best it gets. So why have it?

If you're intent on getting whatever app you want in a pirated format, you'll find it somewhere. The people who buy things from the Apple App Store et al aren't the people who are going to be going looking for pirated stuff anyway - hence, the any and all DRM applied to them is irrelevant.

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