Print 22 comment(s) - last by Piiman.. on Dec 29 at 2:41 PM

Microsoft is not going to be happy about this

Justin Angel, an engineer working on Finnish phonemaker Nokia Oyj.'s (HEX:NOK1V) Windows Phone team, has made the curious decision of going public with details of security flaws in partner Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8, which allow users to pirate games.

Windows 8 users can grab games via Windows Store.  Paid titles typically come with a "Trial" option, which allow users to play a level or two of the game, before being prompted to purchase the title if they want to keep playing.  The trial process is controlled by a Microsoft API.

But Mr. Angel reveals a fatal flaw in the scheme: Microsoft stores the key/hash in plaintext and the algorithm to encrypt/decrypt the data next to the app itself.  In other words, while not for the novice, power users can write small programs to decrypt the program's permissions, write new permissions to make the game look legitimately purchased, and then re-encrypt the permissions.

By exploit the flaws users cannot only get games for free, but they can rid themselves of ads, albeit in a somewhat unethical manner.

But Mr. Angel does not stop there.  He also shows off more security flaws, showing how JavaScript injection attacks can be used to gain access (for free) to in-app purchases.  As an example he uses such an attack to unlock purchasable levels in the popular game Cut The Rope.

Windows Store
Microsoft Windows Store apps are vulnerable to piracy due to poor security implementation. [Image Source: ZDNet]

The flaws are a big deal as they could rob developers of essentially every way to monetize their content on Windows Store. Microsoft has not yet responded on these issues.

Mr. Angel's page has been overloaded with traffic (or maybe yanked after Nokia brass realized what he posted) and is now down.  However, a cached version is available here.  Just remember, readers, every time you pirate a game another kitten dies.

On his Twitter account, responding to criticism about the post he writes, "These are fundamental flaws in the app platform, not individual apps. No secure storage, no wrote protection, etc....  Offline activation & execution mandate secure local storage. That's how apps differ from fully connected web pages."

The issues echo those of Apple, Inc. (AAPL) who experienced rampant piracy in the early days of the Mac App Store, due to poor rights management implementation.  The take-home message is that it's a lot harder to manage apps on a personal computer, where users have full access to the files, versus on a smartphone, where user access to the file system is limited.

Source: Justin Angel [Google Cache]

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RE: Question of ethics
By brucek2 on 12/11/2012 2:31:12 PM , Rating: 5
We don't know that he didn't contact Microsoft, or that he wasn't told that this issue wasn't important and that it'd be fixed when and if ever they ever got around to it. If that was what happened, it would hardly be the first time.

So one possible motivation is a desire to bring transparency to a serious issue in order to get it addressed in a timely manner, which now it most likely will be.

Even if the fix will take some time, he might have felt the developer community deserved to know about this condition in the meantime.

I'm not saying any of this makes him right, or smart; I'm just responding to your request to understand his motivation. Of course I have no idea what is in his particular head but these have been factors in previous similar circumstances.

RE: Question of ethics
By othercents on 12/11/2012 2:43:28 PM , Rating: 4
I'm not saying any of this makes him right, or smart;

Smart would be hiding your identity and leaking the information to press or websites that won't publish your name. What he did was a blatant "please kick here" sign he put on his own back.

RE: Question of ethics
By B3an on 12/11/2012 4:45:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's been possible to crack games from the Windows Store since before the release of Win 8. The method and software he used to do it has been available for ages. MS are fully aware of it. He's possibly showing it in order to get press attention, which could finally get MS to do something about it.

If MS don't fix the issue, it's not because they cant (it would be easy to fix) it's because they don't want to.

RE: Question of ethics
By maugrimtr on 12/13/2012 6:54:39 AM , Rating: 2
Stupid is as stupid does. He could have leaked it anonymously. There are dozens of hacker mailing lists where vulnerabilities can be quickly distributed and publicised to programmers. Note: I didn't say he "should have". His employment contract probably stipulates what happens in scenarios like this where an employee acts contrary to Nokia's interests. This likely applies whether or not the vulnerabilities were already public knowledge.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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