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NIST adds gaming software to National Software Reference Library

PUBG, World of Warcraft, others added to database to help cybersecurity and forensic experts better track software in investigations

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that it has added gaming software to its National Software Reference Library (NSRL), a database of the world's most widely-installed software. Games from Steam, Origin, and the Blizzard launcher Battle.net were included.

The NSRL is one of the world's largest software libraries, and is used as a resource for cybersecurity and forensics experts to track popular software programs that are known quantities and therefore likely irrelevant to potential investigations. The existance of the database helps such professionals weed out large quantities of irrelevant evidence, allowing them hone in on programs that warrant further examination.

For example, if a computer hard drive that was seized in an investigation had PUBG installed on it, an investigator could quickly check the unique identification of the software against the NSRL. The investigator would find a match, and could then quickly dismiss it and any other games or software that matched as irrelevant to the investigation, while any software that wasn't on the NSRL would be looked into further.

"We're not watching what gamers are doing," said NIST scientist Doug White, who manages the database. "But we need to include gaming software in the NSRL if we want to stay relevant."

Games that were added to the NSRL include PUBG, World of Warcraft, and Mass Effect. Valve, EA, and Blizzard all donated various games to the database, while other games with large install bases were purchased.

These are not the first games to be added. Two years ago, the classic game collection of Stephen Cabrinety joined the NSRL after his death as part of a preservation effort, though preservation is not strictly the purpose of the NSRL. Various popular mobile apps were added around the same time, and the NSRL also includes operating systems, office software, and a multitude of other common programs.

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Rebekah Valentine

Senior Staff Writer

Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.