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StarForce Technologies is a Russian software developer with headquarters in Moscow.
The main activities: information security, protection against unauthorized copying, modification and analysis (decompilation).
Protection options depend on the answers to the questions: what needs to be protected and what are the threats. StarForce is effective solution if the answer to the first question is software (mainly developed for Windows), documents, audio, video, and e-mail. The basic threats: analysis, reverse engineering, copying and illegal distribution, cheats and bots. Binding options are also important for copy protection: to a computer, to a server, and to a disc.
- StarForce MMOG
- StarForce MMOG is a professional solution for MMO game developers providing MMO game protection against various threats (cheats and bots). Included tools help to secure game servers against unauthorized game launches, enable game code obfuscation and offer protection against cracking and modification, as well as providing game traffic security.
- Protection works effectively if a game was protected before release. It allows developers set a high security level and spend less time to maintain the balance of online games.
- StarForce C++ Obfuscator
- This efficient solution is designed to obfuscate (transform) C/C++ program's source code (text files) for protection against cracking and reverse engineering. Protected source code is reliably secured against analysis performed by a man or a machine.
- StarForce C++ Obfuscator is a software that should be installed on the client side unlike the other StarForce products. A few tens of obfuscation techniques provide a high level of tamper resistance.
- StarForce Crypto
- This solution provides protection of application code without binding to an optical disk or a computer. StarForce Crypto serves to counter the analysis of the application source code. Companies uses this solution to hide program algorithms from hackers.
- StarForce ProActive
- Protection system for software that distributed over the Internet in digital format. StarForce ProActive actually is a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system.
- The system offers different licensing models:
- - buy only;
- - try & buy (trial);
- - try & die;
- - demo;
- Software protected by StarForce may be distributed online. Developer can protect both the separate functions of software and entire software by means of StarForce SDK. For activation of the protected software it is required to enter a special key that is provided by the developer. Activation can be performed over the Internet or by SMS or phone call. Recently, this solution is increasingly used to protect business applications.
- StarForce ProActive for Business
- This solution is recommended for protection of business applications that are designed to work in either a “thin client-server”/”fat client-server” configuration, or as a stand-alone application, running on a server or a workstation.
- StarForce ProActive for Traders
- StarForce ProActive for Traders is designed specifically to protect trading algorithms (incl. MQL scripts) based on MetaTrader electronic trader platform against copying, analysis and modification.
- StarForce Disc
- Historically, it is the first product of StarForce Technologies. The protection is based on binding a copy of protected software (game) to an optical media: CD or DVD. The lack of necessity in activation over the Internet is the advantage of this technology. As a minus - an optical disc should be inserted in the disc drive whenever a user wants.
- For optical disc verification it is necessary to count a number of sectors on the rings of disc's spiral and the compare the data with information that is encoded in the key. These data would not match if a user burned the image of original disc on a CD-R/DVD-R. In this case the verification procedure will fail.
- In addition, StarForce provides protection against emulators by a special driver that is installed in OS to distinguish a real optical driver from a virtual one. A virtual optical driver can be created by special programs such as DAEMON Tools.
- StarForce Universal
- This solution combines the capabilities of StarForce Disc and StarForce ProActive. User can launch protected application from a CD or activate the product over the Internet. In the case of online registration, the disc is no longer required to run a protected application.
- Recommended to use a limited number of activations to avoid transmission or resale (a publisher defines the specific conditions).
- StarForce Audio/Video
- This solution provides protection of audio and video files against copying and illegal distribution. Two types of binding to a computer and to a disc are available.
- StarForce Content
- This solution allows you to protect electronic documents in various file formats (PDF, DOC, DOCX, RTF, PPT, PPTX, HTML, JPG / JPEG, PNG, GIF). Also StarForce Content supports binding to a computer and to a disc. StarForce offers this solution in two ways: as an Internet service www.sfcontent.com for publishers and as a separate solution for corporate customers.
- StarForce E-m@il
- Similarly with StarForce Content, StarForce Technologies has launched an internet service Sfletter.com that allows to get a free mailbox for everyone who wants to send secure messages. In addition, this solution could be presented for enterprise users for installing at their side.
When StarForce 3.0 was released, it initially provided extremely strong protection - the StarForce 3.0-protected game Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was uncracked for 424 days. It also marked a significant step up in the effort required to reverse engineer it.
In March 2006 the warez group RELOADED released a vast array of documentation about how StarForce 3 works. Alongside many technical details, it revealed how several resource-intensive procedures were implemented, such as virtual file system and functions protected within a complex virtual machine.
StarForce 3.0 has received criticism for installing its own device driver onto computers along with the protected product, which is generally not uninstalled along with the software (Peter Jackson's King Kong being one exception). Colin McRae: DIRT, however, both asks the player for permission to install the drivers and includes a help file with information on how to remove them.
StarForce 3.0 drivers are installed with certain older game demos, freeware and downloadable games, like TrackMania Nations. Their presence is intended to prevent crackers from using demo executables to help break retail executables (as the two will usually be quite similar).
Currently (May 2014) the use of StarForce solutions became much easier for end users due to "driverless" security technology and binding to a computer. The company also is developing cloud services to protect content and e-mail that are designed to simplify the process of information protection used in everyday life.
StarForce’s customers include Russian Railways, Corel, 1C, Mail.ru, Aeroflot, SUN InBev Russia, AMD Labs, ATC International, MediaHouse, Russobit M, New Disc, Buka, Snowball, 2Play, GFI, CENEGA, Akella.
Some gamers have advocated boycotts of games or publishers known to use StarForce. These gamers claim that StarForce software causes system instability and crashes, and that Protection Technology refuses to address the damage their software causes. In 2006, a $5 million lawsuit was filed against Ubisoft for using StarForce in their games on the allegations that StarForce compromises PC security, slows down PCs, causes crashes and even damages optical drives. However, the case was dropped two years later due to lack of evidence.
Ubisoft decided to investigate the extent of the StarForce boycott and ran a poll on their forums, the outcome of which was against the use of StarForce. As a result (along with general discontent on the web), in Heroes of Might and Magic V and GTR2, StarForce 3.0 was replaced by SecuROM.
Removal of StarForce drivers
Uninstalling a StarForce-protected game does not remove the StarForce driver from the system. The StarForce SDK provides functions for implementors to remove the driver during uninstall of the game, but is not automatically carried out. An official utility program exists to remove the StarForce driver from the system. The program is hosted at a third-party website with a link on the official StarForce website. Instructions for manual removal have also been provided by the community.
Starting from StarForce 4.0 it includes a removal service. This service automatically uninstalls StarForce drivers after StarForce protected product is uninstalled. After the drivers are uninstalled, the service uninstalls itself as well.
On January 1, 2006, Boing Boing claimed that StarForce was malware, mentioning several problems claimed to be associated with the protection system, including disk drive performance degradation and weakening of operating system security and stability. Tweakguides subsequently countered Boing Boing's claim, stating that there is no evidence of StarForce doing anything harmful.
- Todd Ciolek (2009-06-16). "Interview: The Return Of... StarForce?". Gamasutra. "Everybody remembers Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. It held for 422 days without a piracy crack. This world record for AAA-class games is still unbeaten and no other solutions managed to make a game last longer."
- "StarForce Game Copy Protections". GameBurnWorld. Retrieved 2010-03-12. "StarForce Professional v3.0 has been released recently and there is no known way to successfully backup games protected with this version."
- "STARFORCE.RE.TOOLS.READNFO-RELOADED". scenenotice.org. 2006-03-29. "Here is our little contribution to the reverse-engineering community."
- Nate Anderson. "Is your game's copy protection system frying your machine?". Ars Technica.
- "Boycott StarForce website".
- "$5M Class Action Lawsuit Against Ubisoft for Starforce".
- "PC Game Piracy Examined: Page 9".
- Smith, Luke (2006-04-14). "Ubisoft Drops StarForce DRM". Extremetech.com. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Starforce software removed from TrackMania: United".
- "Ubisoft Dumps Starforce (Note the heated commentary following the actual story)".
- "StarForce Drivers Removal". Retrieved 2008-04-03. "StarForce ... has granted a sole right to distribute the StarForce Removal Tool utility to www.onlinesecurity-on.com."
- "Official driver removal page".
- "How can I get rid of StarForce?". Retrieved 2008-04-03.
- "Anti-copying malware installs itself with dozens of games". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on 2008-12-24. Retrieved 2010-04-14.