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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 Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer on 12/11/2012 2:55:31 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft stores the key/hash in plaintext and the algorithm to encrypt/decrypt the data next to the app itself.

This is not esoteric stuff, here. There's no way that people at Microsoft could not have known that there is a problem with this system. If he had found some tricky backdoor involving a memory overflow that only occurs at 11:55 p.m. PST on the night of a blue moon, then yeah, maybe. This, though, is basically Microsoft expressing contempt about the notion of security altogether.

RE: Question of ethics
By kaalus on 12/12/2012 5:52:11 AM , Rating: 2
I think the problem is that Microsoft is now executing so poorly that one hand does not know what the other is doing. Some departments at Microsoft probably know about the issue, but there's no way to get the information through to the other side and get this actioned. Most likely a result of corporate red tape and cover-my-ass tactics.

One more reason for Mr. Ballmer to go. He's such a liability, having all the resources in the world and failing almost every time. He'll drive what once was the biggest and most innovative company in the world into the ground.

You would agree with me if you ever tried developing on Windows Phone 7. What a sorry excuse for a developer portal their app hub was. It was so slow I suspect it was hosted on the Ballmer's grandma old laptop in the garden shed. Constant crashes and data losses. Confusing interface that would give you alarming messages after you clicked anything, and give you no way to undo. People were screaming and moaning at them to fix it for months. Nothing changed. Total silence. If I was Ballmer I would fire the guy responsible for that failure on the spot. Yet they needed 1.5 years to realize that it's broken and improve it (slightly) to its current state.

Billions of dollars and hundreds of software engineers not enough to create and host a webpage with a few forms? Only at Microsoft.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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