The Theft Protection

Myths and Facts About Identity Theft


The early days of PC gaming on DOS and Windows were great. Most games took up less than a single megabyte and could fit on a floppy disk. By the time DOOM came out in 1993, VGA graphics were standard and game storage had increased. Games would come on multiple discs, as much as five or six for some of the larger games. Floppy disks were the main source of media storage that is until 1993 when Brøderbund released Myst. Initially a Mac only title, but it was a game that sparked sales of CD-ROM drives. And on the PC, the game 7th Guest by Trilobite was regarded as the killer app and was responsible for kick-starting the sale of PC CD-ROM drives and making it a standard. It was a multimedia experience like no other and the CD revolution was among us. By the time Windows 95 was released, PC CD-ROM drives were standard on every computer that you would purchase in stores. But just like the consoles games on the PC were no stranger to software piracy. Floppy disk games were simple to copy even with unreadable sectors on the disc. Games were cracked in a matter of hours and spread around the world on FTP sites and bulletin boards. With CD-ROM games taking over as the standard, software publishers came up with different ways to stop end-users attempting to duplicate or make copies of the discs. During the first few years, this wasn’t a problem. But as CD burners were first revealed in the mid-90s, although initially expensive and slow it wasn’t long before they became affordable and a part of any standard PC setup. One of the earliest forms of CD-ROM copy protection was to press CDs with more data than a regular CD-R could hold. A standard CD holds around 700 megabytes of data but some games came on discs that held more data. This meant that you couldn’t copy the entire disc. This approach was flawed for two reasons. The first is that usually that the extra data found on the disk was just filler and could have just been removed and a normal sized CD was burnt anyway. The second was that CD burner technology was improving at a rapid pace and was capable of what was known as over-burning the additional data and made a copy of the disk anyway. Another approach was to use what was known as a fake table of contents. Like floppy disks CDs contain metadata about the size of the disk, the files contained on it, how large they are, their time stamps and more. This information is known as the TOC or table of contents. Some games introduced a fake table of contents to trick Windows into believing that the disk contained over 1 gigabyte of data and confuse the CD writer into believing that it couldn’t copy the disk. Tomb Raider 3 was one such game. But these methods were crude implementations to stop casual copying. But dedicated cracking groups were able to circumvent these protection methods pretty easily. So companies started to innovate and get more advanced in copy protection and one of the most infamous forms of copy protection that was released in the late 90s was known as SecuROM. SecuROM was the next generation of CD disk protection under Windows and was originally introduced in the late 90s. It was one of the most well known copy-protection methods and was developed by Sony which had a fabrication plant in Austria where they had technology that pressed CDs with data that could not be copied by CD-Rs. The security itself is straightforward. The mastering process assigns a unique key to each individual CD which is stored in the sub channel data. This key cannot be copied by a CD burner. When a game has started it attempts to retrieve the key and use it to decrypt parts of the executable. If the key cannot be located or any other condition then the SecuROM check fails, the disc must have been copied It’s also worth noting that the CD must be kept in the CD drive to launch the game even though you installed it onto the PCs hard disk. While the method sounds simple and easy to bypass SecuROM was a much more sophisticated system than anything else before it. The way that it was ultimately cracked is as follows: Remember, when you put a copy of a SecuROM game into a CD drive and boot it, it simply exits. It just won’t boot. SecurROM, it doesn’t actually use the Windows API function to access the CD-ROM drive it triggers an interrupt from the Microsoft CD-ROM extensions or MSC Dex. The executable contains encrypted code and when launched this code is decrypted with the unique key on the disk and modifies itself into memory, but how do you modify code that’s already running? Self-modifying code is something that some games use in order to confuse and mitigate cracking attempts. With earlier operating systems like Windows 95, it was possible to modify any code resident in memory which can be achieved by a simple Windows API call such as WriteProcessMemory. A typical early SecuROM game calls WriteProcessMemory four times on an original CD but running a copy will only call it three times and fail. The earliest cracks essentially captured and decrypted output from these self modifying calls and by essentially replicating the decrypted output of the game by using a tool known as SoftIce the executable could be patched to return a zero on WriteProcessMemory. In other words, success on every single call and just apply the decrypted output inside the executable This meant that the game could start without a CD in the drive. These were known as the No CD Cracks and because a SecuROM CD contains no unreadable tracks on the disk it meant that you could make a copy of the disk and then download a No CD Crack for the game and play it that way. As with all anti-tamper methods SecuROM had problems, sometimes even with an original disc inserted it would not detect that the disc was in the drive, and in the worst case it would just flat-out not work at all with certain CD drive brands. There was really no way of knowing. it didn’t take long for SecuROM cracks to start coming out, and while each game required its own crack otherwise known as a No CD Crack, SecuROM itself was far from done. In fact, the company really doubled down on its product and started to introduce online authentication on top of the existing SecuROM CD checks. By the early 2000s many people had internet access. SecuROM began introducing online activation DRM on top of existing CD checks. These early versions were simply to validate that a legitimate key was being applied to the game but by the mid-2000s all that was about to change with one of the biggest PC releases to date. Will Wright was the developer of SimCity and The Sims. In 2005, he announced Spore, a real-time strategy guide game that allowed the player to begin life as a microscopic organism and journey all the way through interstellar exploration and beyond. Its massive scope, procedural generation, and open-ended sandbox style appealed to many especially strategy game enthusiasts. The game was a life simulation and Will Wright was at the helm. It even included music and sound produced by the legendary Brian Eno. The game suffered multiple delays during its development cycle. Perhaps it was too ambitious but was ultimately released in 2008 to generally positive reviews. Although the consensus was it may not have lived up to the hype, it was still a good game. Not so good however was the SecuROM. Spore had one of the most heavy-handed and frustrating online activation DRMs that left many users unable to play the game. And keep in mind that spore is a single-player game. Publisher Electronic Arts proudly announced that Spore would earn more in revenue by reducing piracy of the game and stopping the second-hand market. When the game was released, it required online validation every ten days. But due to the massive outcry this re-authentication was quickly dropped. Each legitimate copy of the game used a key that could only be authenticated on up to three computers. So even if you uninstall the game on all of your computers attempting to install a fourth time would fail, and it was also noted that the game needed to re-authenticate on the same system if some hardware was changed. For example, if you were replace to a graphics card or RAM it would constitute a different computer. In response to these complaints the cap was raised to five computers and after five activations then you would need to contact customer service who may or may not have granted further activations based on your situation. SecuROM was also not disclosed on the box and in September of 2008 a class-action lawsuit was filed against EA regarding the disclosure of the DRM which at this point ran just like a rootkit and remained on the hard drive and was very difficult to remove even when the game was uninstalled. In the end the DRM was cracked and Spore ended up as one of the most pirated PC games to date. Within the first week of release it was already downloaded over half a million times on torrent sites. Maxis developer Chris Harris labeled SecuROM on Spore a totally avoidable disaster. EA had learned their lesson from the whole situation and began selling the game with the SecuROM completely removed. But four months after the release of the game is a lifetime and sales by this point had slowed down to a trickle. The DRM completely killed off the game; it never stood a chance But Spore was not the only game. SecuROM with online activations were also used in popular EA titles including Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 and fast forward even to the last 5 years with the release of Windows 10 which still causes headaches for SecuROM games. Microsoft considers early DRM like SecuROM a security flaw and will not allow the games to be read from CD. Recall earlier that we said that the code modifies itself by attaching to its process and patching bytes. That’s something that’s a big no-no in Windows 10. So any SecuROM disk will simply not run without a no CD patch. Microsoft themselves consider SecuROM a vulnerability but the game publishers seem okay with providing customers with an unhappy experience in the short term to ensure that the first week of sales aren’t affected, but don’t consider the legacy of a game that you may want to reply ten years later. It just may not even work anymore thanks to their heavy-handed DRM measures, and I guess the last word should be if you bought and own a SecuROM game, you’ll always continue to have issues and you have my condolences. Thank God for GOG and no CD cracks. So there you have it guys. That’s the story of SecuROM the very heavy-handed DRM protection that started out as a CD copy protection mechanism and kind of transformed into this online activation DRM that really backfired for EA when Spore was released, and it really hurt their sales more than it helped and it was something that provided a poor user experience. And in the end it was just easier just to download a crack of the game and run it and enjoy it that way versus having to deal with customer support, activations and things like that and as we have seen, you know Electronic Arts still continues to use online activation DRMs although not SecuROM because SecuROM is no longer around as a company. But those techniques and methods are still with us even to this day. So if you are looking at buying PC games in this era, I would suggest checking out sites like GOG.com that offer DRM free versions of the same games like for example Cyberpunk 2077 will be on GOG.com next year completely DRM free. The Witcher 3 you can download as well so there’s many examples of DRM free games that I personally would recommend that you guys check out if you are interested in getting into PC gaming. Well guys, we’re going to leave it here for this video. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below if you like this video, you know what to do. Leave me a thumbs up. And as always don’t forget to like and subscribe and I’ll catch you guys in the next video. Bye for now.

100 thoughts on “SecuROM – The PC CD-ROM DRM that broke games | MVG

  1. SecuROM might have broken games.

    Starforce broke Windows.

    It literally stopped me from signing into Windows after being installed. I had to go in there in safe mode and download an update for Starforce since Windows wasn't recognising it as being a signed driver/program.

  2. As a 47 year old gamer, the first game I remember that needed online validation was Half-life 2. You had to create a steam account to authenticate, and we all know where that lead to.

  3. I bought a Mechwarrior game but legit game would not run. So I got a cracked copy that did, returned original and got a different game. Killed gaming for me until steam.

  4. I remember getting Spore as it came out, super excited for it. I don't know if it really did, but the DRM seemed to brick my mom's laptop at the time — after my brother and I put Spore on it, the laptop would boot incredibly slowly and seemed unusable except to play the game.

    I now have the game on Origin and go back to it. I don't know how I got it on there, since I don't recall buying it a second time, but well may have since I do love it to bits.

  5. i remember having to crack spore cause it wouldn't work. like i spent money on a game just to go download the pirated version, talk about backfire.

  6. first game I think I owned that had securerom was age of empires 2 way back in the day, you make a copy of the cd for safe keeping because if they got scratched, who would of thought it was worthless waste of a burnable cd.. Then you find the no cd crack site.. And say what? i can copy the disc to my computer now so no more cd rom spinning in the drive? Amazing.

  7. SecuROM was a nightmare. I downloaded the Spore demo (yes, the FREE demo) and it still installed SecuROM, and it rendered my DVD burner useless (SecuROM had some terrible side-effects). It took a complete wipe of my hard drive to get it working again.

  8. This video brings me back! Miss the days of CDs/DVDs. Anyone remember cdcopyworld? That oginally was the go to NoCD Crack site

  9. "EA learned their lesson", but did they really? Every issue EA has had over they years goes back to the same problem, trying to squeeze users for more money.

  10. I remember back in my days when i Might and magic 3 required to put the disc to play and one day it just stopped working and my life was devasted.

  11. Up until a few years ago when I stopped buying games or got them digitally, sites like GameCopyWorld were lifesavers when trying to get older disc-based games running… even if because hacked EXE files simply made a game compatible on newer versions of Windows.

  12. 6:35 that chart shows a world population of over 10 billion in 2014. Where did you get that crap lol? We are at 7.76 billion now in 2020 and it was probably barely over 7 billion in 2014.

  13. Stupid story reguarding activation codes and shit.

    Battlefield 3 was free on xbox live gold so i decided to get it to play. nope! you have to activate a code from inside the "physical case" to play multiplayer.

     Confused.jpeg

  14. I recently got back into pc games since a spinal cord injury made it difficult to get outside during the Winter months.

    For the record I been a completely honest pc game consumer by buying all of my games on their original cd/dvd, but only to find out I would have NOTHING but RIDICULOUS HASSLES getting them to install/launch on Windows 8.1

    I previously had Windows 7 which I rarely even had any problems with pc games and even with games that were made for earlier versions of Windows, but then I heard several months ago that Microsoft was no longer going to give their residential consumers any more support for Windows 7 come Jan 14 2020 even though they will allow businesses to receive them for another couple years and so I had to end up with the Windows 8.1

    Windows 8.1 resulted in 50% of all the games I bought often resulting in COUNTLESS hours upon hours that turned into days upon days of internet searches, asking questions, trying what other people said should work, calling microsoft being on hold for over an hour at a time and then they just blamed it on the game developers even when the game specified for Windows 8, and also sending numerous messages to the makers of the game whereby they either never respond or would merely say to go look at their faq's for help even after I CLEARLY said that I already went to their faq's and nothing there fixed the problem.

    BOTTOM LINE…I HAVE NO FEELING OF GUILT NOW WHEN I DOWNLOAD A CRACKED GAME FOR FREEITS JUST SO INTERESTING HOW I NOW RARELY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH INSTALLING AND PLAYING MY PC GAMES

  15. I pirate games which I other wise never play, if I like the game then I'd buy it. I've bought over 400 game which I never played. I recently bought PUGB, EFT, RD2, MW2019 and played non for more then 5 hours.

  16. Darkspore – it took the DRM horror to another level. Unplayable most of the time after release & then they switched it off altogether. 😒

  17. All DRM is bad.. But SecuRom was just the start.. Nobody learned their lesson, Denuvo is far more unstable and deserves equal scrutiny.. Windows 98 TE (10) Also has similar DRM for Windows Store which is unstable trash.. Xbox also requires you to be online to even sign into your own profile should it be hooked up to Xbox live… Microsoft told EA to hold their beer after SecuRom failed.. Now EA Uses Denuvo which could potentially brick your SSD.. Microsoft uses a garbage DRM which they designed and should be sued off the face of the earth for failing to advertise online requirements therein.. Microsoft – EA, they really aren't so different in this day and age. Both scam you, Both claim you don't own the software you paid for.. Both try to monetize every single aspect of their product.. Microsoft selling ad space on Xbox's home screen comes to mind as an example.. Difference is: Microsoft customer support is god awful and will frequently attempt to push you away claiming there's nothing they can do even if policies state otherwise.. EA isn't even that audacious they have phone lines, you can call them for support and they're quite helpful.. Microsoft on the phone leaves you on hold for 2+ hrs and hangs up on you.. Leaving you to call back and wish ill will on the first manager you can get on the line.. We can criticize what SecuROM was.. But in retrospect it was far less egregious than the DRM used on Microsoft Studios games nowadays.. Microsoft has been begging for the same type of lawsuit EA received for years… Somebody needs to give it to them. Allowing them to inconvenience end users for their own incompetence at securing the product they paid for and the said company designed shouldn't be tolerated from multi billion dollar monopolies..

  18. NEVER had i problem with SecuRom. It was anoying few times, when i had to wait 5 or 10 minutes for it to operate at ONE game i played, when i was installing it first or reinstalling later, maybe ToCA Race Driver 2??? But other than that, never had any problems with it.

  19. I have a question for the video narrator: is that “gaming” chair comfortable? They’re cheap to get online but I want something that’s ok for a person with lower back pain.

  20. forgetting virtual disk drives.
    That was my go-to back in the day.mount a virtual disk drive and load up the ISO, and bam. Myst, F2P.

  21. Speaking of DRM disasters..why not do a video on Starforce? Only DRM attached to a game I played that bricked the DVD Burner I had installed. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060331/1549225.shtml

  22. Yes, younger gaming demographic- While you b** and complain about how the latest AAA game doesn't use your gaming hardware to its best capability, know that we older gamers (90s era, more specifically) sometimes couldn't play our beloved games AT ALL because of this stupid DRM. That should give your young minds a bit of perspective.

    Also, thank God for Steam, Origin (I guess…), and GOG!!!

  23. I was so sad when I was younger because where we lived the internet was super spotty so I literally could play like once every other month

  24. drm is just fail at thinking. you're not "preserving sales", you're punishing legitimate customers with your bullshit.

    those who don't want to pay for your game will just wait for it to get cracked, and then play the cracked version.

  25. I had a racing game once. It was the Nascar / DTM / so and so game, depending on yeur region. It must have been in the Windows XP and Vista times.
    So I pirated the game. Nights over nights, the torrent running. A full Dual-Sided DVD or so, I think it was ~9GB.
    Then the No-CD needed insane methods like unplugging all your drives, otherwise it would start checking whether the right media is in the drive.
    Suddenly something happened, I don't remember any more. Maybe an update, maybe a piracy-protection mechanism worked, the game stopped working. Since I liked the game, I saved up money and bought it.
    After a few more hours of gameplay, actually the game turned out to be lame and I stopped playing.

    Years have passed. A friend asked me for some older games, since he had an older, less powerfull PC. I gave him this, he was super into racing games.
    …the game didn't start. The SecuRom was only working with XP and Vista but not 7 or maybe it was only XP and older but not Vista. Anyway it was broken -.-

    It was the last game I bought in the store on a real media. Everything eversince was on Steam, Uplay, etc…. (or Nintendo :D)
    Also I never had blu-rays or HD-DVDs after that. I moved to streaming content and digital games completely 🤷‍♂️

  26. i didn't own spore until it was on steam, so i never had to deal with it. i have other games that had 2 or 3 activation limits, but luckily people made cracks for.

  27. I remember when I bought the first FarCry. It refused to run because I had CloneCD installed and even after I unwillingly removed CloneCD it still didnt run! A legit copy! Meanwhile a friend of mine was already playing 3 days before release without ANY problems. Why won't they learn?? Witcher 3 is a gigantic success.. with no copy protection AT ALL!

  28. Back in the late 90s I got a Need for Speed game, Hot Pursuit I think and I couldn't play it. My PC had a CD-ROM drive and DVD-ROM drive,. Once it was installed it wouldn't launch unless I put the disc in the other drive, then it would launch but wouldn't play saying to put the disc in the other drive but once I did that it would say to put in the other drive again. After uninstalling and reinstalling a few times I finallly burned a cracked version to keep in one drive while I had the legit version in the other and it worked. Looking back I guess I wasn't really completely uninstalling the game relying on the manufacturers uninstall exe but I didn't know as much back then.

  29. I remember one game a friend had that came on two disks and that was the time when you had 2 DVD drives in your PC and we dont know why for this game but he needed both disk or the game wouldnt start 😀

  30. I bought Spore when it came out and installed it, played it for a few hours, then turned my PC off and went to bed. Woke up the next morning, turned my PC on, and got welcomed with a message that said some import .DLL from the windows directory was removed/corrupted and couldn't boot into windows. Ah, good times!

    I've only ever played pirated copies of Spore since. It may not have even been Spore, (though, that was the only thing I did that day) I just can't get past that it's a possibility.

  31. I you are interested in invasive DRM you should check out Star-Force. It could brick your cd-rom drive by trying to flash it with 3rd party firmware.

  32. Securom and Denuvo should have NEVER happened. Always caused more damage/problems than they solved, and drove even many legitimate paying customers to crack games they already owned in order to get a more convenient and/or functional experience.

  33. This brings back so many memories. It took hours of emails and phone calls to even be allowed to install my purchased copy of KOTOR. Nowadays if I want to replay it I have no idea if I can or not on my physical copy because of secuROM insanity.

  34. After trying to install my copies of borderlands and bioshock the other day, this video was an instant click. SecuROM still haunts me.

  35. I got gta iv pc disc but i didnt get the manual which holds the cd key so i have to download a crack to play my legally gotten game 🙃

  36. I remember wanting Spore so bad when it was being developed, and then they released it, I didn't buy it because of the protection. And now in 2020, I have still yet to play the game, not that I want to anymore.

  37. lol OF COURSE CD Project Red games will be on GOG, it is OWNED by the Parent Company of CDPR. Thats what turned me onto them!

  38. I remember when pc games didn’t have any drm on them. I find it annoying the modern software uses software keys which need to be validated by the internet to actually use them. I have found that console gaming is much easier since you only need a disc and you can play the game. Of course there is limits on what you can do and you can’t modify the games but overall it is easier even with newer consoles which need the internet.

  39. Without even being able to rent a game, I can't chance $80 just for a game to turn out to be sht. I'll always pirate my games first, if they are good I will purchase them just to support future development. Doom, Resident evil 7, Resident evil 2 remake, Farcry. I downloaded, I played, I enjoyed, I payed afterwards. Support your developers, but also fk anti piracy & DRM. DRM is the cancer of the internet.

  40. Not sure if you're gonna read this, but thanks to your video I was able to finally find a game I've been looking for Over 20 years, I'm talking about heart of darkness, it brings so many memories BACK! so all i Have to say is THANKS!

  41. Still does not seem as bad as Starforce. I have had that malware cause issues, broken drive, windows fail to respond, then fail to boot, etc

  42. I bought a copy of spore when it first came out, and played it for many years until I ran out of installations on my CD.
    Over the years, computers broke and had to be replaced, eventually making my CD un-instalable. Luckily this happened once Steam and Origin were a thing, so I was about to continue playing the game that way. Though I did have to re-buy it…

  43. I am surprised how no one mentioned the most annoying game with SecuROM – GTA 4. I paid a lot for the complete edition only to render it useless on my latest rig because Windows 10. Even the forums and customer service declared it ro be hopeless. My only options are to download a cracked version or to wait for Rockstar to re-release the game on Steam………..

  44. The real DRM was (and still is) reasonably priced games. God knows how much money was "buried" in failed DRM and extremely costly legal battles waged by both software companies and media distribution services.

  45. Securom still lives on in a way in the form of the maligned Denuvo. Afterall the Denuvo company was Sony's DRM development arm spun off into a seperate company.
    Which explains some similarities like really liking the idea of encrypted executables and having it phone home. Though Denuvo ditched being DRM by itself it STILL is using some of securom's old tricks in order to keep the executable from being tampered.

    Which had it's ups and downs for people and games…mostly downs. though.

  46. Just tried to install the original crysis on a windows vista era pc i just rebuilt with windows 10.. no go. wont even install from the original DVD 😡🤬

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