Trojans in save files and mods(Introductory Information)

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Andredron
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Trojans in save files and mods(Introductory Information)

#1 Post by Andredron »

Just a warning from Mr. Python - https://www.renpy.org/doc/html/security.html

Link to article
https://github.com/swoops/video-game-save-file-trojans/


Video Game Save File Trojans
This article is to inform gamers of the dangers of loading save files found on the Internet. To illustrate, below is a video of a custom-written save file virus being downloaded from a shady website, added to a game save directory and then loaded in-game. As you'll see, it's not until the malicious save file is loaded that the virus is recognizable as such. At that point the virus is already running and can start to speak for itself.

Watch video on https://vimeo.com/784655708

Please watch the video before continuing.


How to Stay Safe
Avoid use of any file that has an untrustworthy or unknown origin. This goes for save files, game mods, games, PDFs, GIFs — everything. If the origin is suspect, loading, executing or even downloading the file can be dangerous.

Hypothetically, if someone were to email you I found out how to save <<<spoiler>>>, save file attached as proof! it could be awfully tempting to try out that save file. Instead, do some investigating before you download or open it.

Regarding Ren'Py
While the above video uses the Ren'Py tutorial, this general attack is by no means restricted to the tutorial, nor to Ren’Py. For example, the Twilight Hack was discovered back in 2008 and can still be used to homebrew a wii. The virus shown in the above video could also run on games like "Doki Doki Literature Club", Ren'Py Chess or even "Shadow The Hedgehog" (a dating simulator). All games built with Ren’Py are affected. That said, save file sharing is extremely rare with Ren’Py games.

For those unfamiliar, Ren'Py is a visual novel game development platform. Save file sharing doesn't often make much sense as a feature of visual novels (who would skip pages when reading a book?). And to be clear, I have nothing bad to say about Ren'Py itself. It is free, open source and very easy to use. Combined with a kind and active community, it's probably the easiest way to get into game development. As a result, there are Ren'Py games for just about every interest (https://itch.io/games/tag-renpy). (I really do mean any interest, so some discretion is advised.)

How It Works
Ren'Py uses a save system that automatically works for every game. Whether writing a chess game or a dating simulator, the save system will be handled by Ren'Py in the same way. To create a universal save system that is both flexible enough for any game and simple enough for beginner developers to work with, "arbitrary object serialization" is necessary. In Python, the language Ren'Py uses, this means "Python pickles".

Python pickles can be dangerous. If you "unpickle" a malicious pickle, it's possible to get a virus. This is the principle behind the virus shown in the video above.

The Fix
Let's imagine Ren'Py gives up on Python pickles and chooses instead to use JSON as a "safe" alternative.

JSON can't serialize arbitrary Python objects. So the Ren'Py save system would no longer "just work." Game developers would have to figure out how to save custom Python objects themselves. How would they do that? Like any decent developer, they'd start with a Google search. Google would then proffer countless blog posts and video tutorials on how save systems in Python can quickly and easily be implemented with Python pickles. This highest-ranking and most often suggested solution is, of course, precisely what Ren’Py is currently implementing automatically for developers.

I have also observed that many save files are susceptible to trivial injection attacks. Switching from Python pickles to JSON won’t fix this, either. So at least some games will necessarily continue to have a dangerous save system. Since gamers would have no way of knowing which games are susceptible, the safest course is to avoid save files of unknown origin in all cases.

In short, if Ren'Py switches to a "safe" save system: it still won't be safe in practice; end users will still have to exercise the same caution; and game development will be significantly more difficult. All of this to fix a non-feature that is rarely ever used.

So instead, Ren'Py has decided to keep its current save system but add warnings and documentation. A future version of Ren'Py is likely to warn users when they attempt to load a save file originating from a different computer.

Note to Developers
The simplest way to implement a generic save system is with arbitrary object serialization. Because of its simplicity, it seems to be the most recommended method online for implementing save systems (in Python, at least). If you choose to use this method, save files will likely have the same abilities as your code. As seen in the video above, the save file can rewrite parts of the game, change variables or execute system commands.

Regardless of the save system you choose, a kind warning to make end users aware of any dangers that could arise from misusing your product is never remiss.

Malware in the Wild?
I downloaded 354 files from Virustotal that matched the format of a Ren'Py save file. These files were examined for malware or suspicious behavior. No malware was found, and nothing appeared obfuscated. This is not to say that no malware of this format exists, but it’s unlikely based on this and other considerations.

Public Sample
If I was the one reading this article, I would be excited to try my hand at making my own virus to irritate surprise my friends. I don't necessarily recommend this behavior. While save files can be used to mod the game, it often requires a certain level of expertise to do this without causing crashes. It is usually a lot easier to make something malicious.

So inspired by the idea that "RickRoll did more for security than any awareness class", I created a "Get Stickbugged" Ren'Py save file Trojan. In theory, this will just move a video file into the user's game directory and then play it over and over in an infinite loop. (While this file shouldn't cause any harm, I take no responsibility if it does.)

This file does contain, and will print, the EICAR AV signature string, so it should (theoretically) be flagged by antivirus. All the assembly in this file was written by me and assembled with Radare2. It breaks at least a couple of rules regarding how pickles are expected to work, so most pickle tools error when reading it. It should work on most Ren'Py games, regardless of whether Python 2 or Python 3 is used, and should work even if the game is being played on the web.

https://www.virustotal.com/

Further Research
I wrote a Python pickle assembler, disassembler and decompiler to help with this research. The assembler and disassembler are available in Radare2. I also created a pickle decompiler, which is available here. The decompiler would probably be the best option for reversing the above sample, but it is currently missing oneopcode by design. Eventually I intend to add in this opcode and others.

I'm still researching more ideas regarding pickles that I haven't yet published. I'm currently between employers, but assuming that I'm working with a new company before publication, I intend to publish on my next employer's website. Regardless, I will link to the article(s) from here.


Once again, I ask you to carefully watch what you download, and do not let unverified sources make requests to the Internet.

Another_Tom
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Re: Trojans in save files and mods(Introductory Information)

#2 Post by Another_Tom »

Hello, I am active in the forum with the big F and posted my game there. Someone had a bug to report and asked me to load his save-file which made me wonder because it had nothing to do with the described "bug".

My question is, how can I display a save file created by Ren'Py in a readable form, since the editor only throws out hexadecimal code and I don't understand anything?

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Re: Trojans in save files and mods(Introductory Information)

#3 Post by Andredron »

Another_Tom wrote: Mon Apr 24, 2023 9:31 am Hello, I am active in the forum with the big F and posted my game there. Someone had a bug to report and asked me to load his save-file which made me wonder because it had nothing to do with the described "bug".

My question is, how can I display a save file created by Ren'Py in a readable form, since the editor only throws out hexadecimal code and I don't understand anything?
he seems to be too lazy to dig into the logic of what causes an error, or he uses 1 of the tools
https://f95zone.to/threads/renpy-save-e ... ment.6456/

https://github.com/swoops/pickle_decomp

But if I were you, I would not make his request, and would send a screenshot of the error, or better yet, the text of the error in the pasterbin

Another_Tom
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Re: Trojans in save files and mods(Introductory Information)

#4 Post by Another_Tom »

Andredron wrote: Tue Apr 25, 2023 9:07 am But if I were you, I would not make his request, and would send a screenshot of the error, or better yet, the text of the error in the pasterbin
Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it a lot and no, I no longer respond to his request neither I will load his save file as he is the only one who complains about this so-called bug he found.

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Re: Trojans in save files and mods(Introductory Information)

#5 Post by ISAWHIM »

Save files should be "protected", quite honestly... Each game, when run, should generate a "key". Then the key should be used to encrypt the games "save files", so they ONLY run on that game, on that computer, for that user. Attempting to load another person's save file should fail, as they key to decrypt it is not known and the users key would not match.

IF they wanted to use another person's "save"... RenPy should offer some kind of generic export option for saves. (Such that the serialized data is bound to names/IDs, which would just be read and set into matching names/IDs, on the secondary game. Providing a method of scrubbing invalid data, from injected code, would be a bonus. So a value expecting a number would not be filled with nested code or "injections".)

Quite honestly, for many of these VNs, these save-game states are a LOT of overkill.

If the VN is just a simple story, with or without paths... All that is needed to be "remembered", is the "path selection", and any "random results", if those were generated. Such that a save game would look as basic as this... (1, 3 @ {45.823}, 1, 4) [78] Which says that the user selected choice 1, then 3 and it generated the random number 45.823, then they selected choice 1, then 4, and ended the story at position 78, past the 4th choice. Then RenPy could simply "recreate" the path to get back where the user "left off".

If the game was not a simple "pathed/linear" style game, but an actual game with stats... Then you would just save the current state as values of the stats, inventory item values, quest numbers/values, key items, the location, the time, the current action, etc... Again, that is a TINY bit of safe data, which can easily be "scrubbed", before adoption into loading. (YOU know that your valid stats for "Love", would be 0 to 100 as a number. You know that "[Alpha/Numeric] string", is the only valid data to accept as a name. Etc...) I really hate "save states", as "save files", because they are all so bloated, and usually not easily editable or even fixable for most users or creators. Totally ignoring the inherent dangers that neither can really detect or intercept in any way.

I always liked the old-school games where you could just type a save-code and continue playing the game. Such a simple concept that reduced entire games like "Kid Icarus", down to a basic code of "4Ty68i 322uUoP trez999 TTYYieE", and that contained everything needed, in a few bytes of data, versus over 480,000 bytes of data (480k) for a basic linear path that could have been a simple number "42" as one or two bytes.

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