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I taught a few.

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The great danger in the fight against piracy is that it's so damn interesting. You can spend months playing cat and mouse with the people trying to crack your schemes, ratcheting up the complexity to insane levels, and every time you come up with a new scheme and get it working you'll feel like a million bucks because you Won tm. But the people on the other side feel the same way, there are more of them, and in reality, they're not actually hurting your business as badly as your delusions tell you they are - none of them were ever going to buy your shit anyway.

Add features, improve your design, fix bugs, or tweak your shitty description and screen shots in the app store which, in my experience, will affect sales for most apps more than the first three factors put together. Literally any time that you devote to copy protection is wasted, unless you're Angry Birds and even then I'm not sure you're not reaching anywhere near a high enough percentage of the people that would happily pay for your product to worry about the ones that would rather just take it.

I agree. The arms race of building 'better' copy protections instead of continous improvement of your product won't do you any good. I think the main key is deciding on the investment. The amount of time put into those things can be expressed in money. So this poses two questions: 1. Would I be willing to pay the given amount to someone else to do it. If not and I still want to do it I should at least admit that this is for personal ambition and not for the product.

It's OK everybody likes a challenge. Will it improve my sales? Again the money. What stands to gain from this. How much effort is OK. Perhaps the simple checksum in addition to the common cmp jne check is enough to get a few sales. But that's about it for products with a market where uncracked time is not king. Look somewhere above for the gamasutra article about game releases and the value of time. And I think the time constraint doesn't work for many products. The idea for one of my projects was to say "if you are able to crack it you can keep it". If someone spent the time and has the ability to do it, it's fine with me.

Surely this is no viable solution for most products. But I'm curious how it will work out Vlasta on Jan 18, Agree, playing hide and seek with crackers is waste of time. I decided to make the anti-piracy protection trivial in the latest version of my software. I just wrote a installation date into an.

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I want customers that love the software and are happy to pay the price I ask. Software piracy can be solved by social means, not technical means. Yea, artificial scarcity is fundamentally flawed. I even wrote a series about the various attempts on my blog. The App Store doesn't need high levels of security on your apps. No matter how much you obfuscate, it only takes one smart person to crack it and then your app is on all the bit torrent sites.

People will buy from the App Store because they want the protection it provides and the convenience. They know when they download your app from the app store that it's not a virus, the install will be one click simple, and Apple has hand reviewed and approved the app. I think the Mac App Store protection is designed to be just enough to stop Average Joe from copying it onto a usb stick and giving it to his friend. In the end that's really what you want.

You can reverse engineer the classnames with class-dump, subclass a class and override a suitable function e. I didn't know about that, that's really neat! Will need to do some research into that! PS: I'm poking fun at myself—since I wrote the original app, including misspelling. Also, I use American english, but I do prefer to use the british form of 'spelt' or 'burnt.

Locke on Jan 17, Meh, decoding compiled C code is about just as easy for me. I wouldn't worry about it until it becomes a serious problem. The people who crack many apps in the scene are pretty decent at it and this will not slow them down. Edit: Actually, they're not very good at it, but this still won't slow them down much. Some people also view the windows as an invitation to throw the stones in, claiming they are too fragile to be of any protection anyway. Next time you buy a DRM-ed book from Amazon. Would that make you happier as a user?

The way to solve this problem is to spend more time on adding more features into the frequently released newer versions of software. Cracking all the same basic reg code would get boring for a few-dollar app. The challenge then is to write a script that automates the cracking. But does that actually matter? All you need is Google. I doubt it. I would actually lean the other way. If your system is far more secure than another identical system, people are less likely to bother targeting your application when they break open the other one much more easily.

It's only when you bring something unique or "better" to the table that you make it worth spending significant amounts of effort on breaking. Well, that's more than just a shell. How so? All of which run inside a shell. I think you misunderstand what a shell is. By the standards of this post's title, I could say that I have written huge pieces of software with "just a shell".

In fact, the foundations of modern computing could be said to have been built with "just a shell". There was a time I did everything in a shell Clickies, checkboxes, buttons - shiny stuff. Command line tools are best and most efficient for reverse engineering IMHO. So if you were looking for an "I built the statue of liberty with matchsticks" type of effect, its kind of a fail, at least on me.

The only "real" copy protection would be trusted-computing right down to the hardware. Signed binaries, with the signature database ultimately in hardware and controlled by a single party But seriously - this was interesting in and of itself, for those who don't know the tools.

The whole concept of copy protection and registration is a war that can't be won. Denying unregistered people proper updates seems to me, form experience,to be the most effective deterrent - I don't like to apply updates if I'm not sure if it will cripple my app because I used a weird serial - and nobody likes to run a "keygen" these days because who knows what it does.

In the end - all software is piratable, and usually by those who won't pay for it anyway.

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With the declining price of software and mass-markets like the app-store, more people will pay. I like a certain piece of SSH terminal software for windows - but I don't use it, because I'll be damned if I'm going to pay over a hundred bucks a seat for it - it's not THAT much better than the free alternatives. If they brought that price down to something reasonable, I'd use it all over. Near the end of the article, the author mentions that storing a digest of the binary is an effective means of protection. I've heard this before, but I've never understood how it works.

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There's two ways I can think of: One is it just builds the binary, runs it through SHA1 or whatever , and stores that digest somewhere in the installation directory. But what's stopping attackers from just changing the digest? They have access to the application, so they can know exactly how to generate the digest; all they have to do is run the bundled digest function in gdb, copy the output, and then search for it in the installation.

Even if the author tried some sort of obfustication xor, deflate, reverse, etc , such attempts would show up in the binary and could be trivially duplicated. A second is that the digest is somehow pre-computed for a binary before it's built, then included in the binary itself. But I don't see how this is possible with secure digests. And if the method is simple enough that it's worth using for typical iOS applications, what prevents an attacker from pre-computing a digest for the cracked version? Someone on Jan 18, They have access to the application, so they can know exactly how to generate the digest Traditionally, the way of doing this is by making that 'can know' step very difficult.

Techniques to accomplish that include refusing to run under a debugger, multiple layers of protection, self-modifying code, loading the digest code from disk block checksums, from between tracks on a floppy disk or from blocks marked bad back in the day when there weren't that many layers between application code and hardware , etc. A lock does not have to be unbreakable; it just has to make breaking it costly enough to discourage even attempting breaking it. With hackers, though, that does not quite work. They see even attempting to break the lock as enough of a reward in itself.

When Mac OS X updates the signature on a binary for instance, when you configure a firewall rule for a previously unsigned binary , the actual Mach-O file will be changed -- and your digest will be incorrect. Skype which has notoriously complex obfuscation had this problem for a short time when Mac OS X You can work around this by validating only the important subset of the Mach-O contents, but it's probably not worth it.

Cracked applications rather than, say, reverse engineered serial number generators are an annoying thing to use -- you'll have to refrain from applying updates until you get a new crack, trust the person distributing the crack, etc. It's not something I or, afaik, most other small Mac developers really worry about. If you have access to enough computing power maybe you can store a digest of the binary while including the digest in that same binary.

That would make it a LOT harder to just change, but would also slow down things like security patches. If you have enough computing power to do it, so do the crackers but usually even moreso. TheAmazingIdiot on Jan 17, Effective means of protection are when you "roach motel" the data. The first rule of software engineering is you never let the shareware stuff do it all.

Test version should not save? Rip it out. Shouldn't print? Remove printing. Chop it out wholesale. If you do an unlocking scheme, then make it subtle. Take a hint from Unix development: dont tell the user that the code worked or not.

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Just take the code or whatever. Tomorrow, then tell the user if it's a bad code. And if it's in the blacklist, don't tell the user at all, and instead start introducing subtle errors everywhere. Whoops snicker. Or you could go the obvious route of slapping a banner on it, but that is usually easily removable. The idea here is to be subtly annoying up to the point of just doing nasty shit to the data worked with in your program.

And of course, give error codes in a form of a md5sum that tells the company if you're a pirate or not. But as I said earlier, put the time you would protect the program instead as improvement to make your program do its task better and easier. Crackers find these to be challenges. They just crack to keep their chops up. Or you could go the obvious route of slapping a banner on it, but that is usually easily removable" "Gee, I'm sure glad I decided to pirate [program], it's buggy as hell.

Better warn my friends Spyro: Year of the Dragon used a similar technique to great avail. Don't be so quick to dismiss this method of deterring crackers. It just needs to be done right. There are arguments going both ways on this issue so it's simply not black and white. Perhaps it works better for games than applications, but again, you'll find arguments going both ways for games and apps alike.

There was a rumour going around the EE department that if you tried to crack Eagle or use a keygen'ed license, the software would slowly start corrupting the circuits you were working on. After a month it would tell you that you had pirated the software, but not before you'd created a fair number of non-working PCBs. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but it kept us all on the straight and narrow. From what I remember, the copy protection on Eagle was conceptually simple and seemingly effective.

Basically it put the license ID into all saved files. Updates to the software would include an updated blacklist which prevented loading of files from old pirated versions. Crackers wouldn't bother with fixing the load functionality as everything would work fine for the current iteration. There were of course ways to work around it load then save with the same version under the free license, or export the entire design as text using a ULP and then import in the new version.

But on the whole, it struck me as frustrating the process just enough to encourage users who would possibly pay, to pay. I wonder if Cadsoft made even more from unlocking design files. We'll happily unlock it for the cost of a deluxe license. And then all the people who pirated your app deride it as "buggy" and you lose your paying customers, because who would buy such a buggy piece of crap? EGreg on Jan 18, I personally like the idea of an application "unlocking" itself every time based on a hash of its binary. You would have to find all the places these hashes are computed -- if you missed even one place, you wouldn't be able to unlock the app.

Of course, such an app could still be cracked -- as could any app And that is just too inconvenient for the actual buyers. Once again, security at the price of convenience. This doesn't really work. If you have all of the functionality running on your machine but the dongle is there to authenticate, it can be cracked by ripping out the code that does the challenges.

The proper way to secure an app using a dongle is to move some key piece of functionality out to hardware instead.

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You need some functionality though where the response can't just be memoized by the crack. What could it be? Depends on the application, really. I can give you an example of where I've personally considered using this ended up going with an alternative, however : my startup's product is a hotel front desk system and we have to encrypt room keys to work in the locks; pushing the crypto off onto an external device would make it considerably more difficult to pirate the software, as you'd have to reverse the algorithm and reimplement it in software.

In the end, it didn't make sense for us, but it would've been pretty solid, as the odds of you having two identical cards is monumentally slim and would only even be possible every couple of years. People crack and hack our apps. We don't think it's worth fighting. And moreover, we have a link on our home page that says if you email us, we will give you our apps for free. Some people take advantage of this offer, but the vast majority of users do not.

I think we are exploring the wrong issue here. We shouldn't be looking for a non-crackable scheme, we should be striving to find a scheme to recognize customers who are willing to pay and reward them. Kilimanjaro on Jan 18, Price your app exactly at a point where people with money will gladly pay for it instead of suffer the hassle of downloading crapware-infested copies.