Sunday, February 1, 2009

Messin' with SecuROM

Process Monitor is one of the programs that SecuROM blacklists. If you try to start Mirror's Edge with Process Monitor running, you get a beautifully designed*, and clearly explained* dialog that looks like this. A required security module cannot be activated. This program cannot be executed (5025).* /sarcasm

But it's not hard to run Process Monitor with Mirror's Edge. Login as an administrator and startup Process Monitor. Then switch users to a limited account and run the game. Having done this with Mirror's Edge, I can see it creates a dll in your Temp folder called drm_dyndata_#######.dll. The '#######' seems to always be the same number for me, but other people report a different number on their computers. If there is some kind of 'error' (i.e. they want to have more control over your computer than you do) and Mirror's Edge refuses to start, then it also creates a dll called drm_dialog.dll.

The Turtle's Blog Presents: Messin' with SecuROM

Just for fun, I set the security of my temp folder to WRITE-ONLY and started up Mirror's Edge. Well SecuROM sure didn't like that, and somehow concluded that my game is no longer registered, and began its phone home process.

Next I went to the SecuROM registry folder and exported the entries, then deleted them from the registry. Starting up Mirror's Edge, I blocked its attempts to phone home for a new registration. I then restored those exported SecuROM registry entries, and thankfully SecuROM was appeased and my game ran fine again. Note that Mirror's Edge has to be separately activated for every account on your computer. I tried importing these registry entries on another account, but SecuROM rejected it and tried phoning home.

Mirror's Edge phone home process involves trying to connect first to EA (, then Google ( with three different IP addresses, and finally Microsoft ( with two different IP addresses. It gives no indication it is doing this, and if Mirror's Edge fails to make contact with any of its desired sites, it takes about two minutes before finally reporting it needs internet connection. I'm sure there are some oblivious users out there that double-clicked that icon like crazy, and after seeing no response, concluded that there is something wrong with the game or their computer.

I thought I would try being one of those oblivious users, and started Mirror's Edge on an unregistered account--then kept double-clicking the icon until my computer froze briefly and started beeping at me. I had some 15 MirrorsEdge.exe processes started and my CPU maxed. In a few seconds all but the original process closed, but still no indicator that MirrorsEdge.exe was really doing anything until the eventual message is displayed.

When will these game studios learn that this is (one of the reasons) why people hate DRM--because it's implemented so very poorly. I submit that a big reason Valve's Steam has finally been somewhat accepted is because they try to reduce the hassle as much as possible. But I'm sure the rantings on some no-name blog amounts to a hill of Circuit City stock in the eyes of Sony.

Disclaimers: Don't try these sorts of things unless you know what you are doing, are willing to possibly lose one of your 5 registrations, and don't mind if your computer could crash beyond repair. I have a fully legal copy of Mirror's Edge, and was perfectly happy to support the developers that did such a great job on the game. I wish more people would do the same.

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