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Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sun, 27 April 2008 10:35 Go to next message
wumpus

 
Master Chief Petty Officer
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Registered: September 2004
After a resounding 0 replies in 8 weeks in a closed Forum, I'm reposting this in a public forum in order to reach a wider audience and hopefully get some responses...:

-----------------

Hi everyone,

well, after a long hiatus (for many reasons), I'm coming back to doing some programming stuff in my free time, and thus digging through my old projects.

As many here will probably be aware, I had worked out (by whatever means) how to decrypt all "real" Stars! files, and had after that gotten a long way through decoding the actual content of the various files. The vast majority of interesting stuff is known - there's still some amount of stuff (particularly in the M files) the meaning of which is unclear, in particular since the information extracted seems to me to be complete _without_ these data.

But that's not really the point of this post

While I think I'll probably take the code up and tinker with it a bit more, I suspect I won't really do all that much more on it on my own... if this stuff is to have a future, I think it needs to be released to some other people.

But... that's problematic. Obviously, if I release the code publically, everyone can use it and sticky-beak around in the stars! game files.

HST files -> these obviously have complete information on the game state. However, being able to read these strikes me as a lesser problem; on SAH only Ron has them, and even the host doens't usually have acces. Off of SAH, a playing host could examine the file... but the playing host has many other ways of cheating, so this harldy seems much of an issue either.

M files -> As long as only the designated player has access to the M file, there is not much problem here either. Stars! is quite good about only putting the information into the M file which the player is supposed to have. The only exception which comes to mind off hand is the MT - IIRC the MTs cargo is stored in the M file, even when the player has no way of knowing it.

H files -> harmless; these are compiled on the client, and only contain information which the player has anyway.

XY files -> also harmless. There are various decoders for this around already.

X files -> VERY BAD. Being able to _read_ the stars files also means being able to write them. And it's possible to write commands into the X file which can't be given using the normal client, and are definitely cheating (moving fleets vast distances in a single turn is one I remember how to do; I'm also fairly certain that it would be possible to produce almost arbitrary amounts of stuff in a single turn, etc etc).


Theoretically it would be possible to write filters for the M files which remove the sensitive information or (more simply) overwrite it with a default (eg: edit the M file so that each MT appears to be carrying the Super Cargo Pod, regardless of whether that's true or not). This would even be relatively easy.

Much harder, but still theoretically possible, would be to add a filter for incoming X files which checks them for plausability. However, it seems to me that this the effort to do this is close to that of writing a complete new stars! hosting program... Possibly the work in freestar! could be useful here?


So there you have it... comments? Thoughts? Suggestions on how to proceed?

-----------------



Michael "Wumpus" Zinn
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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sun, 27 April 2008 11:17 Go to previous messageGo to next message
m.a@stars is currently offline m.a@stars

 
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wumpus wrote on Sun, 27 April 2008 16:35

Much harder, but still theoretically possible, would be to add a filter for incoming X files which checks them for plausability. However, it seems to me that this the effort to do this is close to that of writing a complete new stars! hosting program... Possibly the work in freestar! could be useful here?

I'm not sure if code from Freestars could be useful for that task, but I've been a long-time proponent of joining the x-file sanitizer effort with a bug-free turn-generator. Sherlock

Seems to me with a "server" program like that we would gain the best of both worlds, including the ability to keep the old client while a new, revamped one is built. Cool



So many Stars, so few Missiles!

In space no one can hear you scheme! Deal

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sun, 27 April 2008 18:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
miklem is currently offline miklem

 
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I think, that main question is code for .X-files, because all other seems generally safe (MT info in .m file imho can be accessed relatively easy and info about it already can be found out of SAH).

P.s. As for .X - checker: this can be a solution, but currently we have only one .x - writer, and I think, we will have only one .x-writer long time, even if tomorrow all codes for Stars files will be public.


[Updated on: Sun, 27 April 2008 18:36]




WBR, MikleM

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sun, 27 April 2008 22:05 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Ron is currently offline Ron

 
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I believe releasing the code to the public would be a bad idea for the reasons you stated, especially the .x files.

I don't mind if a few trusted people have it, perhaps some of those most involved in Freestars.

I suppose that sometime in the future, it will probably be public knowledge and we'll just have to deal with it then. Cool

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the Stars! Community.



Ron Miller
Stars! AutoHost

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Mon, 28 April 2008 05:49 Go to previous messageGo to next message
m.a@stars is currently offline m.a@stars

 
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I'd be interested in analyzing those "junk" bytes in the m files. Perhaps they're leftovers from past versions of the game, or... Sherlock

About x-file filtering/sanitizing: what about releasing the checks that already are done/work? At least as some kind of semi-public beta-test? Cool



So many Stars, so few Missiles!

In space no one can hear you scheme! Deal

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Wed, 30 April 2008 01:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
mlaub is currently offline mlaub

 
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I would *love* to take a gander at the guts of a game I have been playing for so long. However, I'd hate for it to get out in the public.

-Matt



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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Wed, 30 April 2008 18:16 Go to previous messageGo to next message
neilhoward

 
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Not trusting others 'not' to build a bomb is half assuming they can't find out how without you. That might be valid, however questioning the integrity of your peers is a slippery slope. Once you start doubting there is no end to it. On the other hand, openness allowing for some abuse could foster some healthy critical interest. Though I am sure you can trust the hundred or so sock puppets currently being used.



By the time you realize how steep the curve is, you will be using five types of calculus to get to the market. You will then need three different calculators to perform what you once considered basic arithmetic.

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Thu, 01 May 2008 16:02 Go to previous messageGo to next message
wumpus

 
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Ron wrote on Mon, 28 April 2008 04:05

I don't mind if a few trusted people have it, perhaps some of those most involved in Freestars.


I'd be fine with that - I've just been out of circulation for too long to know who these people are. Any pointers? Or shall I just send what I have to you and you take it from there?

If there is active interest, then I too am interested in continuing to work on it, as and when I have the time; various circumstances indicate (not certainly yet though) that my time may be much more available again soon (in roughly 2 weeks, say)...

m.a@stars wrote on Mon, 28 April 2008 11:49

About x-file filtering/sanitizing: what about releasing the checks that already are done/work? At least as some kind of semi-public beta-test? Cool


Releasing the code is problematic... releasing any small part more or less requires releasing the decryiption part, and the decryption is the "hard" part; working out what the clear-text bits and bytes mean is a lot of leg-work after that, but its not "difficult".

I currently have no reasonable option for putting up a webservice in a similar way to the way I did it in the past for the race file checker, as I run my own webpages on external hosting now (and for the last 4 months or so), where I can't run native binaries ("just" PHP stuff... which is not - at least yet - sufficient for my decryption stuff).

Sorry if this is a little incoherent, I'm currently dual-tasking. I'll re-read my post later and potentially correct Smile



Michael "Wumpus" Zinn
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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Thu, 01 May 2008 19:11 Go to previous messageGo to next message
m.a@stars is currently offline m.a@stars

 
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wumpus wrote on Thu, 01 May 2008 22:02

Releasing the code is problematic... releasing any small part more or less requires releasing the decryiption part, and the decryption is the "hard" part; working out what the clear-text bits and bytes mean is a lot of leg-work after that, but its not "difficult".

I currently have no reasonable option for putting up a webservice in a similar way to the way I did it in the past for the race file checker, as I run my own webpages on external hosting now (and for the last 4 months or so), where I can't run native binaries ("just" PHP stuff... which is not - at least yet - sufficient for my decryption stuff).

You may want to contact PaulCr (as he is doing pretty similar things) Cool



So many Stars, so few Missiles!

In space no one can hear you scheme! Deal

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Mon, 06 October 2008 18:08 Go to previous messageGo to next message
russl5445 is currently offline russl5445

 
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I'm new to the AutoHost forums, but I've been in r.c.g.s for ages.

Wumpus, I'm really jealous of you for figuring this out. I knew that the encryption was an XOR pattern, but I didn't know asm well enough to figure out how Stars! was generating the pattern.

A recommendation: one thing that can be done openly is that we can generate a list of tests that need to be run. Just iterating through all of the possibilties is by itself quite a bit of work. This would allow the cadre of folks with access to the code to focus on the code, instead of the list of things to do.

I know that it sounds pointless, but we have to generate formal test plans for every project, and I can tell you that the work is both tedious and time consuming.

Plus, it would get public interest in the checker. Smile Appoint a moderator (he receives all of the requests, removes duplicates, and maintains the list of tests), and the coders can periodically post updates: 89/305 tests coded so far!

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sat, 09 July 2011 17:43 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Daniel is currently offline Daniel

 
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wumpus wrote on Mon, 28 April 2008 00:35

... if this stuff is to have a future, I think it needs to be released to some other people.



Knowing the guts of the stars files would be useful to the Stars! Nova project. If you would release it to one of the project admins (myself or evild00d) we could use it to ensure Nova implements Stars! features as faithfully as possible, without widely distributing it. We might also be able to use it to plan the contents of the Nova turn files to better support a game file converter. That might lead to the .x file checker that you mention as Stars! Nova is intended to not trust the client - as the client source code is freely available.



Have fun.

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Re: Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sat, 09 July 2011 19:14 Go to previous message
nmid

 
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You might want to get in touch with Xyligun about it.
Not quite sure if Wumpus is still active in the stars! universe.

Also, I believe Ron was looking into implementing some aspects of Xyligun's work into SAH, but no idea as to it's current release date.

Regards,
Nmid.



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I used to curse when I got stuck in traffic... till I realised I AM traffic.

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