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Stars Encryption Sun, 18 March 2007 09:52 Go to next message
PaulCr

 
Chief Warrant Officer 3
Stars! V.I.P

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Registered: February 2007
Location: An Island that kinda look...

Stars encryption[ 26 votes ]
1. Publish details if found 14 / 54%
2. Don't publish details 12 / 46%

I've been able to find most of the locations for the race settings in the .hst file which for anybody interested I've included on my site that I've previously posted.
During the investigation I've become convinced that the encryption should be easily breakable and have begun taking a look.
After a preliminary look I am convinced that I will be able to work out the values of the locations I've already documented and depending on the length of the sequence used will probably be able to break it completely.
I'm posing the question now of whether I should publish details or not if I do break the encryption.
You would need access to the files to use it and therefore the host is the only viable person who could use it for cheating, the host needs to be trusted anyway since he can already cheat if he wanted.
Publishing would mean that all the file formats could be documented and would be likely to lead to new utilities coming out.

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Re: Stars Encryption Sun, 18 March 2007 17:26 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Dogthinkers is currently offline Dogthinkers

 
Commander

Messages: 1316
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I think it's already been broken by a number of people, but so far all have decided to keep the technical details under wraps. Which incidentally was my vote, although I don't know quite how much scope for abuse the knowledge makes available. I do hear that there is information in the m files that players aren't supposed to know, so making the encryption public might grant the ability to extract that information to more people (not sure if that is a better or worse situation.)

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Re: Stars Encryption Sun, 18 March 2007 20:37 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

Messages: 1227
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Stars! turn generation assumes that the turn has been not made (or affected) by some external client. Integrity and cheat check is bare minimum there. If people start to hack their turn files then first thing it probably will cause is that AH will hang and crash a lot more than it does now. Confused

Wumpus was first who wanted to publish the encryption algorithm. He wanted to prevent at least some evil that it causes. He was writing cheat checker so AH can run it and precheck uploaded .X# files against hacking cheats. I am not sure how far he got. The probablility that he discovered all possible ways to cheat is low. The files have lot of little detail and writing proper integrity and cheat check there takes significant manpower. Nod

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Re: Stars Encryption Mon, 19 March 2007 13:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Coyote is currently offline Coyote

 
Lt. Commander

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I'm against publishing it widely but it might possibly help the FreeStars/Nova project if only the people involved are informed and you can believe them to keep it sub rosa.

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Re: Stars Encryption Mon, 19 March 2007 14:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
m.a@stars is currently offline m.a@stars

 
Commander

Messages: 2755
Registered: October 2004
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I believe I'm not saying anything new, but:

Deal We aren't dealing here with some mission-critical piece of state-of-the-art, but with a very bug-ridden and cheat-prone ancient code. Whip

Deal at the moment, dozens of cheats, bugs, possible abuses, mods, and crashes are known, and you can bet a fair number of "hidden" flaws and exploits exist too. Evil or Very Mad

Deal the Stars! experience/replayability would vastly improve if scenarios were easier to set up and "special" policies/rules to apply. The list of games for the past couple years shows it, as well as the near-imperative of a "non-playing host" or a "third-party umpire" Rolling Eyes

Deal the existence of even a single turn-checker/validator/enforcer tool, however limited, would significantly change the balance. And it's not like the encryption/password system is that hard to hack anyway. Sherlock

Deal add-ons (battlesimming, empirewide order checking, mineral balancing, threat assessment, AI) would become suddenly possible and suspicion-free. I've seen more games killed by boredom/MM than by cheats or bugs. Sad

Deal I therefore vote to spread the base of possible coders of such sorely needed marvels before the issue becomes largely academic, iow, our beloved Stars DIES. Shocked



So many Stars, so few Missiles!

In space no one can hear you scheme! Deal

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Re: Stars Encryption Mon, 19 March 2007 17:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
crr65536 is currently offline crr65536

 
Chief Warrant Officer 3

Messages: 180
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I definitely agree. There's already many widely known ways to cheat - allowing further exploration of the file format by revealing this information is only a good thing. If people want to be malicious they already have the means to do so. Rolling Eyes

Exposing this would not mean everyone hacks all their files. Laughing Again, it is well known how to cheat in other ways, but very few, if any, people in the modern Stars community do so.

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Re: Stars Encryption Tue, 20 March 2007 11:21 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

Messages: 1227
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But ... it is nothing hard to hack out really. Far less work than what ConstB did ... just takes some skill with 16 bit debugger and 16 bit machine code. Both are simple.

Publishing such information gives possibility to anyone hack the turns (even to rather unskilled people whose attempts will usually cause just AH hangs and/or spoiled games on better cases) nothing good without countermeasures.

Knowledge is accessible for people who want to work on countermeasures. Nod Say there are coders with a skill and time to invest into the tool that Wumpus was planning to make? Can contact Wumpus or LEit, (to join the http://sourceforge.net/projects/stars-util/)
and to write the thing?

With any details Ron, Wumpus, LEit, me, Captain Maim or ConstB can also help then? I am unsure how others are but i am certainly willing to help, just that in a bad hole with time to write some real thing now. Confused Tool itself is good idea ... but making such thing takes quite a work with pile of undocumented structures in a file. What it does not take is publishing the algorithms on some web site. Rolling Eyes


[Updated on: Tue, 20 March 2007 11:27]

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Re: Stars Encryption Tue, 20 March 2007 18:43 Go to previous messageGo to next message
crr65536 is currently offline crr65536

 
Chief Warrant Officer 3

Messages: 180
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It's not hard to use freepop hack or full starbase cheat either, but how many people do those things? If it is so easy to hack turns, then people can already do mean things if they want to. Keeping this information "secret" just makes it harder for people who want to do more useful things with it.

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Re: Stars Encryption Wed, 21 March 2007 00:38 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

Messages: 1227
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crr65536 wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 00:43

It's not hard to use freepop hack or full starbase cheat either, but how many people do those things? If it is so easy to hack turns, then people can already do mean things if they want to.
If cheating is already easy then it must be made easier why? What i anyway care about cheaters?
Quote:

Keeping this information "secret" just makes it harder for people who want to do more useful things with it.

Not publishing something is not equal with keeping it secret. The vote seemingly displays nothing like consensus and so it quite likely will stay unpublished. Nod

I provided source forge link for a open source Stars! tools project, i gave the list of the persons most of whom (unless all) have the information. Rolling Eyes My poor English skill fails, or just misses the mark, or what other clues intelligent person who can do "more useful things" needs? Embarassed

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Re: Stars Encryption Wed, 21 March 2007 15:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
crr65536 is currently offline crr65536

 
Chief Warrant Officer 3

Messages: 180
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Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 00:38

If cheating is already easy then it must be made easier why? What i anyway care about cheaters?



The point I'm making is that if the file format details were released, there would not be more cheaters as everyone who wants to cheat already has the means to do so. Basically, keeping this secret doesn't help cheaters, it just hurts people who want to do complex game setups, etc. Crying or Very Sad

Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 00:38

Not publishing something is not equal with keeping it secret.


This doesn't make sense to me. How is not telling different from keeping a secret? Laughing

Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 00:38


The vote seemingly displays nothing like consensus and so it quite likely will stay unpublished. Nod



Maybe so, but I can still argue for why I voted the way I did. Nod

Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 00:38


I provided source forge link for a open source Stars! tools project, i gave the list of the persons most of whom (unless all) have the information. Rolling Eyes My poor English skill fails, or just misses the mark, or what other clues intelligent person who can do "more useful things" needs? Embarassed


The stars tools project is a great thing - I just wonder why people don't want file format info to be available when it makes setting up scenarios easier with no downsides. Rolling Eyes

The point I've been trying to make is that giving out file format info will not mean everyone mods everything and breaks all their games. Laughing If someone has no ethical problems with cheating, why would they not cheat now? Why would they wait to have the file format information?

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Re: Stars Encryption Wed, 21 March 2007 16:32 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

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crr65536 wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 21:04

Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 00:38

Not publishing something is not equal with keeping it secret.
This doesn't make sense to me. How is not telling different from keeping a secret? Laughing
Publishing and telling are also nothing like equal things? Surprised Publishing is telling to people who did not ask it. Rolling Eyes

You sound like believing that some people have full documentation about every bit and byte of stars! files and just hide it from good people who want to write their wonderful tools? Laughing On one hand known information is limited and insufficent. Confused More difficult things than just hacking the encryption are there. Nod On other hand ... what good people they are if they cant step forward, introduce themself and to ask the information they need in person?

Encryptionless Stars! mod that Pricklypea did make is probably still available at his site for download. He also called people to work and discover the meaning of the unencrypted data with it. Who did? How far they got? So that noise about marvelous tools and queues of developers and whatnot crap is pointless. If cheaters gain something or not i dont care ... so what was the point to publish it ... again? Razz

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Re: Stars Encryption Thu, 22 March 2007 04:38 Go to previous messageGo to next message
m.a@stars is currently offline m.a@stars

 
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Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 21:32

On one hand known information is limited and insufficent.


As well it should, since such is the sad fate of "security thru obscurity" always. Whip


Quote:

More difficult things than just hacking the encryption are there.


But we may never know, since not everyone who is good at breaking encryptions is equally good at decyphering other things, whereas others who perhaps could might not have the time, the patience, the tools or the talent needed to pass the first encryption hurdle. Sherlock


Quote:

what good people they are if they cant step forward, introduce themself and to ask the information they need in person?


Me, for starters, and I'm still waiting for Wumpus or Pricklypea to come forth with answers or code or tools for several years now. Evil or Very Mad


Quote:

Encryptionless Stars! mod that Pricklypea did make is probably still available at his site for download. He also called people to work and discover the meaning of the unencrypted data with it.


While at the same time withholding the info he already has. Shocked I won't waste my time rediscovering the tidbits others knew years ago.


Quote:

so what was the point to publish it ... again?


Obviously, since we're talking about main HST file info, the point would be to allow easier/more evolved scenario setups, something you would already know if you had bothered to read this thread form the start. Razz



So many Stars, so few Missiles!

In space no one can hear you scheme! Deal

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Re: Stars Encryption Thu, 22 March 2007 10:57 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

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m.a@stars wrote on Thu, 22 March 2007 10:38

Obviously, since we're talking about main HST file info, the point would be to allow easier/more evolved scenario setups, something you would already know if you had bothered to read this thread form the start. Razz

Question was about particular algorithm, namely the one that encrypts the data. It does all same in all files. It is not needed to work on the data since there is PricklyPeas mod. With or without "you wont waste your time" anyway.

As for info about HST file race structure ... it was me who started publishing it. Shocked Someone wanted to do something fun and i told what i knew? Surprised PaulCR even wrote a tool based on my info? Evil or Very Mad

If neither Wumpus nor Pricklypea gave it to you then ... probably they had reasons for it. Cant be just because they are evil. Rolling Eyes

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Re: Stars Encryption Tue, 03 April 2007 07:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
PaulCr

 
Chief Warrant Officer 3
Stars! V.I.P

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Given I started this thread I have neglected it a bit, while responding to a post in another thread I was going to add the following to the end of it but it makes more sense to include it here rather then in the other thread.

I have been looking at the encryption but I don't have the 32 bit x86 background to go into something as complicated as a windows application so I've had too regenerate identical files for each encryption key which so far appears to use 11 bits I've already seen documented plus the bottom 2 from GameID and TurnNo giving me 32768 .hst files. Finding time to go further after the encryption though is difficult although I know I can use the files I've produced to decrypt Player 1's race section, or at least the areas I aleady know the function of. I've not had time yet though to even check if the following sections restart at the same point in the sequence or continue where the last section left off or to even check if the fragments I have can stitch together into a single full sequence, hopefully (32 or 64k long), if each sections starts at the same point in the sequence then I'd be able to decrypt for all players, if the fragments stitch together it should be simple to use my existing info to figure out the position in the sequence to start from and decrypt the entire file.
I consider the above information safe to post, without knowledge of the sequence needed to decrypt it is only of limited use. I am interested in getting together with some of the other programmers who have already written existing utilities who may be interested in pooling the information that each other has. I can make the files I've generated available to anybody who thinks they may be useful but the are in 4 zip files of 40+ MB, I can make the script used to create them available instead but on my machine it takes around 1-1.5 hours to generate 2048 distinct files which need doing 16 times (4 turns x 4 different GameIDs). It alo hits the hard disk pretty badly since to get 2048 unique files takes an aweful lot more generations.

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Re: Stars Encryption Wed, 04 April 2007 04:44 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Carn is currently offline Carn

 
Officer Cadet 4th Year

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Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 21:32



Encryptionless Stars! mod that Pricklypea did make is probably still available at his site for download.



Where is his website?

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Re: Stars Encryption Wed, 04 April 2007 09:24 Go to previous messageGo to next message
m.a@stars is currently offline m.a@stars

 
Commander

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Carn wrote on Wed, 04 April 2007 10:44

Kotk wrote on Wed, 21 March 2007 21:32



Encryptionless Stars! mod that Pricklypea did make is probably still available at his site for download.



Where is his website?



It used to be http://www.darkcluster.com but it seems a bit dead now. Confused



So many Stars, so few Missiles!

In space no one can hear you scheme! Deal

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Re: Stars Encryption Wed, 04 April 2007 12:21 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

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PaulCr wrote on Tue, 03 April 2007 14:35

I am interested in getting together with some of the other programmers who have already written existing utilities who may be interested in pooling the information that each other has.

Good idea, but we would need some wiki site to make the pool of such information effective.

I am still quite strongly against publishing the details how to (or tools that) remove encryption before real attempt has been made to check cheating.

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Re: Stars Encryption Fri, 06 April 2007 23:03 Go to previous messageGo to next message
gible

 
Commander

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Gee...where are you going to find one of those... Laughing

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Re: Stars Encryption Sun, 08 April 2007 08:39 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kotk

 
Commander

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gible wrote on Sat, 07 April 2007 06:03

Gee...where are you going to find one of those... Laughing

Hmm ... but you got one up, right? Rolling Eyes

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Re: Stars Encryption Fri, 13 April 2007 10:58 Go to previous messageGo to next message
PricklyPea is currently offline PricklyPea

 
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Hello. Just popped back in to say hello.

I left Stars and am enjoying the much increased free time.

The idea of encryptionless stars was to remove encryption alltogether so that people could ignore it but still not help people to cheat (as encryptionless and standard files are not compatible).

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Re: Stars Encryption Fri, 13 April 2007 10:59 Go to previous messageGo to next message
PricklyPea is currently offline PricklyPea

 
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BTW, my site no longer exists. I let the domain name expire.

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Re: Stars Encryption Fri, 13 April 2007 15:07 Go to previous message
Dolphin

 
Crewman 1st Class

Messages: 21
Registered: February 2005
Location: Germany
Being in my first game of Stars!, I was reluctant to comment on this threat, especially as my experience with other strategy games like VGA Planets is shaping my view of Stars! After reading this discussion, I have to give my my 2 cents nonetheless:

1. Cheaters:
Stars! does not adequately check for cheating. It would seem natural to me that someone with the programming skill for such a task would be willing and able to develop a host side cheat checking program. Keeping information confidential is unlikely to stop cheaters (they tend to have a lot of criminal energy). Keeping the relevant information secret, will just make their detection harder. Hit Computer

2. Micromanagement:
The game's own routines for reducing micromanagement are helping a little but I am shocked Shocked by the amount of MM still needed for playing Stars! on a decent level. I assume that few players appreciate repetitive tasks, yet, there seems no external tool available relieving players of these tasks. Workarounds like setting scouts to "colonize" to optimize their flight patterns clearly show that Stars! misses out on something here.
I am certain that programming MM tools would be easy for skilled and interested players. Yet, if they had to first decipher the data format all by themselves, few potential programmers would have the time and dedication left thereafter to provide the Stars! community with tools for reducing micromanagement.

3. Information:
The sheer number of Excel sheets, databases and third party programs shows that the display of information in Stars! is utterly inadequate.
The fact that practically all of them are in some kind of early beta despite being years old shows that the task of writing such a program is currently not esasy enough. Having all the file formats/decryption routines available would make it much easier to write a program that distills information from the load of game data available. Work at computer
Good players read an opponents PRT/LRTs/hab range/settings/ship designs based on the information provided. Yet, for now this seems a time-consuming manual process. Experience might help but this game needs to attract fresh blood so anything giving a huge benefit to the old hands ensures that Stars! remains a dying game. Arguing
There is an urgent need for improving information management. I understand from this forum that many of the better players have a background in informatics and several seem to have programmed their own private tools. If Stars! is to remain attractive, this community should strive to level the battle field by making it a battle of wits, not computer skills. Whisper

If we want Stars! to survive, the community should work on ways to put all the knowledge and hidden tricks into a program that allows players to focus on economic and military strategy instead of being forced to spend hours moving pop and guessing at freighter weights and directions. Yuck

Best regards,
Dolphin

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