That time I cracked a company’s software, using their own software

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So I was debating whether or not I should write a post similar to this for a while, now… it’s a funny story, and not too long, but it doesn’t exactly paint me in my best light. But, then again, I have already admitted to pulling one over on a cellular carrier, so why not cop to some of the other silly shenanigans I pulled in my younger years?

Also reaffirming my decision to do this, the owner of this particular studio who developed the game I’m about to talk about has recently outed himself on Twitter with some blatantly racist and bigoted remarks, so I don’t feel as bad for what I did. More importantly, as you’re about to learn, I didn’t really DO anything nefarious!

The story is this: in the early 2000’s, one of the most “basic” forms of anti-piracy, was to require the CD to be in the computer in order for a game to load. It checked for the presence of certain data on the disc, and then proceeded to load the game. The game, of course, had been entirely installed on the hard drive, and there was no reason to keep the disc in the drive other than for the annoying copy-protection check. It was absurd! CD Burners had gone mainstream, and anybody who wanted to make a copy of the disc for the friend could do so – the act of having the disc in the computer was just a nuisance, and slowed down when I needed to swap to another disc for some other purpose.

Knowing all of that, it wasn’t uncommon in that era for people to create “No-CD cracks” for computer programs. These would bypass the check for a CD and allow the program to run just fine without the disc in the drive.

In 2003 a game came along that many brash young men wanted to play. I had been playing the Demo for the game until I could get my hands on the real deal. But then, of course, the annoying requirement to have a CD in the drive. Nobody had released a “No-CD” bypass yet, but rather than sit and suffer, I did some inspecting of my own. I realized I was able to play the internet-downloaded Demo, obviously, without a CD-ROM in my computer. So I replaced the executable for the game in it’s install directory, with the executable that launched the Demo.

Viola! In just a matter of a couple of clicks, I had used the software company’s own demo as a means of bypassing their CD-ROM check! I immediately spread the word of this and uploaded the demo’s .EXE file to a prominent website known by, shall we say, some of the less scrupulous people of the internet.

I have no idea how many times it was downloaded by how many people, but seeing as it was the first “crack” available for that game, I have no doubts it was used far and wide. But I suppose the developers should have considered not packing the disc-check-free version of the executable in with their own publicly released demo version.