Flight Sim Labs make premium add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D software. With prices on individual planes coming near – and exceeding – $100, it’s probably no surprise that some players have taken to pirating these digital jets. More surprising is the fact that Flight Sim Labs loaded their add-ons with DRM that has the power to steal passwords in an effort to thwart these pirates.
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A user on Reddit noted a suspicious file coming with the installer for the A320-X jet airliner called “text.exe,” which is listed as a Chrome password dump tool. He tells Rock, Paper, Shotgun that he “was keen to understand why exactly the installation package was triggering antivirus alerts so often.”
Lefteris Kalamaras at Flight Sim Labs responded shortly after on the official forums, saying “we were made aware there is a reddit thread started tonight regarding our latest installer and how a tool is included in it, that indescriminantly [sic] dumps Chrome passwords. That is not correct information – in fact, the reddit thread was posted by a person who is not our customer and has somehow obtained our installer without purchasing.”
Essentially, the password dump tool activates on copies of the installer with the same serial number as those on ThePirateBay, RuTracker, and other piracy sites, and then “takes specific measures to alert” the company, adding that the file would not remain after installation on properly purchased copies. Kalamaris says “this method has already successfully provided information that we’re going to use in our ongoing legal battles against such criminals.”
“There are no tools used to reveal any sensitive information of any customer who has legitimately purchased our products,” Kalamaris says, with his own bold for emphasis.
Still, the controversy of including a password thieving tool as DRM was naturally controversial, with players feeling it’s a step way too far to combat piracy, even questioning the legality of the measure.
In a later update, Kalamaris confirmed that the installer had been changed to remove the tool, saying “we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered to be a bit heavy handed on our part.”