Starforce Crapware

Anyone who plays PC games is familiar with copy protection methods.

However, what most gamers don't realize is that some copy protection methods are ... atrocious.

Case in point, today we are talking about Starforce copy protection software.

Rather than go on about a rant, I encourage you to click the permalink to go to a Boing Boing article which sums it up fairly nicely.

I'll also copy/paste it here for you since they are being threatened to have it taken down by Starforce (guess free speech doesn't apply when you speak out against a corporation, eh?).

---Begin Quotation---

Monday, January 30, 2006
Anti-copying malware installs itself with dozens of games
Update: StarForce, the company criticized below, has threatened to sue me for describing the problems with its software.

A group of gamers has started a site to spread a pledge to boycott video-games that come with a dangerous anti-copying mechanism.

Starforce is an anti-copying program that some games covertly install when you install the game. The software causes system instability and crashes. The company that makes Starforce refuses to address the damage their software causes; instead, they blame the people on whom their malware has been forced: "According to our research those of users [sic] that do run into compatibility problems are beginner-level-hackers that try to go around our protection system."

The list of games infected with Starforce is long and depressing -- there are dozens of these. If you're a gamer, you owe it to yourself to have a look and check to see if Starforce might have damaged your PC. What's more, you should join the boycott of any game that comes with this malicious software onboard.

For example, here's one of the common problems brought by Starforce: under Windows XP, if packets are lost during the reading or writing of a disk, XP interprets this as an error and steps the IDE speed down. Eventually it will revert to 16bit compatibility mode rendering a CD/DVD writer virtually unusable. In some circumstances certain drives cannot cope with this mode and it results in physical hardware failure (Most commonly in multiformat CD/DVD writer drives). A sure sign of this step down occurring is that the burn speeds will get slower and slower (no matter what speed you select to burn at). Starforce, on a regular basis, triggers this silent step down. Until it reaches the latter stages most people do not even realise it is happening.

Moreover, the Starforce drivers, installed on your system, grant ring 0 (system level) privileges to any code under the ring 3 (user level) privileges. Thus, any virus or trojan can get OS privileges and totally control your system. Since Windows 2000, the Windows line security and stability got enhanced by separating those privileges, but with the Starforce drivers, the old system holes and instabilities are back and any program (or virus) can reach the core of your system by using the Starforce drivers as a backdoor.


Update: StarForce, the company criticized below, has threatened to sue me for describing the problems with its software.

---End Quotation from Cory Doctorow @ Boing Boing (

A list of the games that use this protection (and should therefore be avoided!) is available HERE.

Released games include:
Prince of Persia Sands of Time by Ubisoft
Splinter Cell 3: Chaos Theory by Ubisoft
Pariah by Groove Games

And so forth.

I wholeheartidly support not purchasing any game/program/application that uses Starforce protection as it renders a system vulnerable to various other forms of malware. In addition, the creators of Starforce have my personal guarantee that I, nor anyone I know, will purchase nor use software with their encryption as their crapware is just one more step toward me not being able to run what _I_ want on _MY_ machine.

Trusted Computing Platform Alliance at work my friends (More information here).

Don't let them take your rights!


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