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jamotto

4.5 million copies of EULA-compliant spyware

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I recently performed a rather long reversing session on a piece of software written by Blizzard Entertainment, yes - the ones who made Warcraft, and World of Warcraft (which has 4.5 million+ players now, apparently). This software is known as the 'warden client' - its written like shellcode in that it's position independant. It is downloaded on the fly from Blizzard's servers, and it runs about every 15 seconds. It is one of the most interesting pieces of spyware to date, because it is designed only to verify compliance with a EULA/TOS. Here is what it does, about every 15 seconds, to about 4.5 million people (500,000 of which are logged on at any given time):

The warden dumps all the DLL's using a ToolHelp API call. It reads information from every DLL loaded in the 'world of warcraft' executable process space. No big deal.

The warden then uses the GetWindowTextA function to read the window text in the titlebar of every window. These are windows that are not in the WoW process, but any program running on your computer. Now a Big Deal.

I watched the warden sniff down the email addresses of people I was communicating with on MSN, the URL of several websites that I had open at the time, and the names of all my running programs, including those that were minimized or in the toolbar. These strings can easily contain social security numbers or credit card numbers, for example, if I have Microsoft Excel or Quickbooks open w/ my personal finances at the time.

Once these strings are obtained, they are passed through a hashing function and compared against a list of 'banning hashes' - if you match something in their list, I suspect you will get banned. For example, if you have a window titled 'WoW!Inmate' - regardless of what that window really does, it could result in a ban. If you can't believe it, make a dummy window that does nothing at all and name it this, then start WoW. It certainly will result in warden reporting you as a cheater. I really believe that reading these window titles violates privacy, considering window titles contain alot of personal data. But, we already know Blizzard Entertainment is fierce from a legal perspective. Look at what they have done to people who tried to make BNetD, freecraft, or third party WoW servers.

Next, warden opens every process running on your computer. When each program is opened, warden then calls ReadProcessMemory and reads a series of addresses - usually in the 0x0040xxxx or 0x0041xxxx range - this is the range that most executable programs on windows will place their code. Warden reads about 10-20 bytes for each test, and again hashes this and compares against a list of banning hashes. These tests are clearly designed to detect known 3rd party programs, such as wowglider and friends. Every process is read from in this way. I watched warden open my email program, and even my PGP key manager. Again, I feel this is a fairly severe violation of privacy, but what can you do? It would be very easy to devise a test where the warden clearly reads confidential or personal information without regard.

This behavior places the warden client squarely in the category of spyware. What is interesting about this is that it might be the first use of spyware to verify compliance with a EULA. I cannot imagine that such practices will be legal in the future, but right now in terms of law, this is the wild wild west. You can't blame Blizz for trying, as well as any other company, but this practice will have to stop if we have any hope of privacy. Agree w/ botting or game cheaters or not, this is a much larger issue called 'privacy' and Blizz has no right to be opening my excel or PGP programs, for whatever reason.

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There's also nothing illegal about it. Talk to most of the tech savvy WoW players and they all agree.. its already in the EULA and if Blizz really feels its necessary to keep the cheaters and bots out, then fine.

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I would agree there is nothing really wrong with it in it's current form, but I am curious as to what Blizzard would do when the 'warden client' gives a false positive.

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Guest $iLk

If it's in the EULA - not much to be done... many people are starting to boycott things which use schemes they don't agree with.

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It's a cut and dried situation....Don't use their software.

I agree that they have no business examining a clients hard drive, even if it is looking for cheaters. There are plenty of other ways to find miscreants that doesn't require opening other programs on a client machine.

I wonder if this warden program shows up as spyware in anti-spyware software.

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