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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » GameIndustry - Encryption Chip Will End Piracy?

Default GameIndustry - Encryption Chip Will End Piracy?

May 28th, 2008, 13:52
In an article up at gamesindustry.biz, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell makes the prediction that games piracy could be ended in the near future, due to a new encryption chip coming preinstalled on the motherboards of new PC's :
Speaking at yesterday's Wedbush Morgan Securities annual Management Access Conference, the Atari founder suggested that game piracy will soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new chip.
"There is a stealth encryption chip called a TPM that is going on the motherboards of most of the computers that are coming out now," he pointed out
"What that says is that in the games business we will be able to encrypt with an absolutely verifiable private key in the encryption world - which is uncrackable by people on the internet and by giving away passwords - which will allow for a huge market to develop in some of the areas where piracy has been a real problem."
Bushnell thinks that piracy of movies and music, however, is probably unstoppable because "if you can watch it and you can hear it, you can copy it."
"Games are a different thing, because games are so integrated with the code. The TPM will, in fact, absolutely stop piracy of gameplay.
More information.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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May 28th, 2008, 13:52
I do hope that this chip will not only be useable for business companies and government authorities, but also for plain normal citizens who want to protect their own, copyrighted material from hackers and even shady business companies.

The point is that ALL security technologies are aimed ONLY at the business; there's NO technology developed explicitely for citizens who want to protect their stuff.

This is the beginning of an new age of actually two classes : The security-rich class (business, for example), and the security-poor class (normal citizens).

Everything hints towards that, in the long run.


Security is only as good as the education and the available tools for the protected thing;

but home users have always been the weakest member of the chain. And no-one cares, because the security business cannot gain profits from them.

So they let them remeanj weak, or in other words: security-poor, meanwhile selling and installing the really strong security solutions for business and governmernt ONLY.

Plus there always is the arrogance of business representatrives saying that "home users don't need this", because the value of the material to be protected is considered low-end stuff (in comparison to business-material). I've experienced that on a past CeBit fair.

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May 28th, 2008, 15:39
@Alrik
I agree with the fact it's the industry who pushes security. That's because they have the need and the funds to do it. Consumer security is only increased when the industry can make profit out of it.

But that doesn't mean that user don't profit from what the industry does. If they make my games more secure at least that decrease the probability that somebody else than me will play my games online using my serial number for instance. Also by reducing piracy you can make sure that especially smaller game developers won't have to fear bankruptcy just because everyone is playing their games for free instead of buying them. This is to my advantage as a gamer as well. Not to speak about the idea of justice.

As for private data there is only one way to be sure at the moment: stay off the internet.

In my opinion it's all about digital identity. That's what will happen in the future I think: every user will be clearly identifiable no matter in what context or application. By eliminating anonymity and creating secure digital identities you can eliminate a great share of criminality on the internet. Maybe a chip on the mainboard is a first step in this process.
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May 28th, 2008, 18:42
It would be nice if the chip could be used to protect the owner of the computer, but I don't think that is what Atari is concerned with.
I don't pirate, and I don't encourage others to do so, but I think Atari is overrating something based on an assumption. The assumption is that all those who are playing pirated versions will somehow pony up and go buy the game if they can't get a pirated version of it. What if the thwarted pirate doesn't march to the store and pay for a copy? Maybe the free word of mouth publicity from the pirate players will be lost and sales will actually go down? Not that I'm hoping for such a thing, but sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, Atari, you just might get it.
Just food for thought..
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May 28th, 2008, 22:13
Meh… I think its a good thing overall guys. Sure said pirates won't go buy the game but at least honest gamers won't feel like such tools for forking over 40-60 bucks for the game while others get them for free and smirk at you when they hear that you actually pay for them.

Now the problem with MB based protection is that it will encourage gamers who don't pay to get the motherboards that don't have this chip and I'm not so sure that all MB manufacturers will comply because the MBs without this chip will be in bigger demand then those that have it. What are gaming companies going to do then? Block all MBs without the chip? Now THAT would reduce the sales of their games.

Lastly I'm not so sure that this wouldn't be hackable. If there's code in the game that implements this check to their internet server, then there's a way to remove that code and there will be no internet check.
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May 28th, 2008, 22:45
I think this is a good development.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the next big excuse for moving to consoles after piracy has been eliminated.
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May 28th, 2008, 22:55
*and a good laugh was had by all*

what you will get is crackers who will accept the challenge.

since the encryption chip will be a standard on every board the first task is to intercept calls to it, then you'd want to figure out precisely what the software is looking for as an answer. I'm going to assume its some sort of PGP routine and its a code involving the sum of two extremely large primes.

One way to do it, and this may be the simplest, is to have the software accept the answer regardless of what it is, or do a loopback feeding back its correct own answer.

Regardless, its simply a barrier that will be overcome.

Still, an onboard, hardware accelerated encryption generator could be useful, or it could be an easy way to crack a machine by having an identical copy of your own, especially if its just a set of numbers.

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May 28th, 2008, 23:20
All the games I play I have bought but Lucky Day and Sergius64 are spot on! How long before we will see adverts: "motherboard so and so without TPM chip"? As for cracking the chip…..Blu-ray was cracked, so was XBox and Playstation and so will TPM. Not a question of "if" just "when".
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May 29th, 2008, 00:42
Terrible. Sounds really Orwellian. Why not implant mircrochips into our brains to assure we behave according to the law? *shudders*

The good thing is, as chip needs the SOFTWARE to send a code, and Juang Dse said 2000 years ago, every lock humans can make, some human can break. So what is left is another way clever people can spy on us.

SAY NO!
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May 29th, 2008, 03:40
Won't work. These chips have been out a while and they're far from universal. My understanding is that they're mostly used to implement data encryption under Vista for business and consumers.
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May 29th, 2008, 05:02
@lucky day yes a hardware protection could be hacked but look at it as a comparison between owning a cable black box and downloading a movie online. the interent has provided the poor, young, and those of little inteligence a level field to just click a few buttons and instant download. a black box however is not that easy to come by (the my roommate in college had a few), is an 'investment' in itself, and can be rendered useless in many ways. now since theres like one cable company i'm not even sure if black boxes still exist anyhow. so really if a hardware protection came out it would be great as those 'casual' pirates would simply have to be more descretionary with their money and those 'lifer' pirates would laugh at the world when they have their 'i can play any game' motherboard which cost them $800. thats why true pirates are unavoidable, and yet easily rack up the most bad karma. because the 'machines'/hardware deserve all our money not the 'artists' who create all of the individual work that could just as well be developed on another medium…

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May 29th, 2008, 06:26
You wouldn't need a "black box" just a crack or modified image of the game that has the protection removed from the game. This is not proprietary like consoles and cable boxes where you can only run encrypted code. To make it so you can't crack a game you would have to make the pc not be able to run unsigned code like on consoles. That won't work since the pc is an open platform and also can run various different oses.

The only way this can be any harder then it is currently is by making it so the disc has code on it so it will make a check when inserted to verify the disc but that wouldn't be much harder to crack and also could potentially cause compatibility problems in the long run.
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May 29th, 2008, 09:29
If it reduces the problems legitimate users have with protection systems then I'm all for it.

Every scheme can be got around, but that's not the point - the point is piracy has become so trivial that joe bloggs finds it easier to play a game illegally than legally. Two things need to happen to stop that:

1) Make obtaining a legal copy of a game as easy as downloading it - this is beginning to happen now with Steam, download stores etc. And make that copy work.

2) Make obtaining an illegal copy harder - the chip will help in that respect.

As long as there is sufficient coverage for the chip (ie, mandated by microsoft as part of directX or something) then I think it's win-win.
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May 29th, 2008, 09:32
Originally Posted by zahratustra View Post
All the games I play I have bought but Lucky Day and Sergius64 are spot on! How long before we will see adverts: "motherboard so and so without TPM chip"? As for cracking the chip…..Blu-ray was cracked, so was XBox and Playstation and so will TPM. Not a question of "if" just "when".
Ps3 is not cracked yet. Also only very small % of ppl warez games on consoles if you compare them to the ones in pc. Its all about making pirating games as hard as possible. Most average-jack players dont know how to install windows - let alone mod a chip on a motherboard. Theyll propably just buy another computer from dell/alienware that is well fitted with all kinds of TMP chips.
Last edited by zakhal; May 29th, 2008 at 10:34.
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May 29th, 2008, 11:16
The integrity aspect aside I'm worried about compatibility issues when upgrading to a new OS version or getting new hardware.

I buy a new PC every two years, but due to my conservative taste and the lack of games in my preferred genres I stick with good games for much longer than that. I hate not being able to run something I paid dearly for just because I upgraded the PC.
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May 29th, 2008, 16:42
Right Zal. How long before we see software that will require one of these onboard chips.

I too hope it would make things simpler for average gamer. It could possibly avoid problems with the drive and not require an internet connection. I doubt that they'll do that but we can hope.

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May 29th, 2008, 16:46
My issue with the this TPM chip IS not about piracy (which I don't support).

It is about that this TPM chip on our computer's motherboards can be used to pry information from us without our consent. Such information would (and is) very valuable to the big corporations. It could mean that we, wothout or consent, share our internet habits with say EA, or that we say, share what games we play, our hardware configuration etc. etc. with corporations like EA or Atari etc.

It could also mean that the authorities just could take the TPM chip and then you computer wouldn't work anymore. It could also mean that the TPM chip could be used to prevent you from playing games or going on the internet if say the government did not want you to do so…

I agree, however, that most people probably wouldn't even think twice about this and buy a computer which has such a TPM chip in its motherboard. And then 2 years later, they will just go out and buy another computer and so on and so forth.

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May 29th, 2008, 18:23
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
It is about that this TPM chip on our computer's motherboards can be used to pry information from us without our consent.
While I understand it's never good to be too blase about personal information, I think it's almost paranoia to accuse every new chip that appears in a motherboard to be guilty of spying on us and reporting back to someone else. Do you accuse the CPU of doing the same? Or the DVD player? Or the hard drive controller chip? No, each component in a PC is there to do it's specific job - if you include a chip to provide a hardware-based DRM then it'll just do that.

People reveal far more information about themselves just browsing the internet for a day.
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May 29th, 2008, 21:17
Hold on- hasn't someone already tried this?
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May 30th, 2008, 09:17
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
While I understand it's never good to be too blase about personal information, I think it's almost paranoia to accuse every new chip that appears in a motherboard to be guilty of spying on us and reporting back to someone else. Do you accuse the CPU of doing the same? Or the DVD player? Or the hard drive controller chip? No, each component in a PC is there to do it's specific job - if you include a chip to provide a hardware-based DRM then it'll just do that.

People reveal far more information about themselves just browsing the internet for a day.
I see what you're saying Kalniel.

But when I surf the internet, at least I'm charge of who I am given my personal information, too (if any). As I understand not so with Securom or this TPM chip.

Then there's also the whole hidden threat, to me, at least, that the content providers i.e. EA etc. can shut down the computer if the TPM chip discovers & finds things that they don't like. Many people have Nero, Alcohol or Daemon tools on their computer. This chip might mean that if it is has disvovered these programs on your computer - it could block access to your own computer.

It seems to be about distrust for the legitimate buyer, not trusting the legit buyer.

Of course, it does not have to be that way, but it could be a possibility…

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