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Software Copy Protection Questions

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mouser: dunno which protection scheme is the most cracked, I guess one could code a data-mining spider for or whatever and then build a database :) - but saying that Armadillo is only touchable by the highest level of crackers is wrong. It's one of the more established and well-known protection systems, so it has received a lot of attention, and a lot of essays has been written on it...

Some of those are beyond the traditional "here's how to crack program X protected with Armadillo", and actually go in-depth with the protection, even the more recent and fancy stuff like self-debugging etc.

If you want to protect something, there's really no way around digging into woodman's forum ("know your enemy" and all that).

Using one of the more well-known protectors should at least mean you have support and that the protected app probably won't crash on the client machine, but it also means you're at the risk of cracking groups internal one-click-auto-unpack tools...

Software protection programming is not a very well known field for most
programmers. Software protection techniques are not like "visible" features
that can be seen and compared. Because of this most software protection authors
could talk about impressive techniques that are included deep inside the
protection scheme, when many times most of these techniques hardly exist or
they are much simpler than what they seem.

Most software protectors reiterate a lot about using very strong cryptographic
algorithms like RSA, Elliptic curves and AES hoping that the final user will
believe that those protectors and the cryptic algorithms are unbreakable. This
if far from the truth as software protection is very different from data
protection. Even if a software protector encrypts the protected application
with the most robust cryptographic algorithm, sooner or later the protected
application needs to be decrypted in order to be run by the CPU. It is in this
phase when most attackers will start their work by dumping the decrypted
application from memory to disk thus not having to deal with the cryptographic
algorithm and reconstructing of the original application.


-imtrobin (October 01, 2007, 02:01 PM)
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Thanks imtrobin. I am downloading the demo right now and I will try it out. From the description, it looks like it should do what I want, and the price is reasonable.


Any experience with this product?

i might suggest a more middle of the road approach.  find a suitable protection that doesn't inconvenience the user, and don't expect miracles from it.
-mouser (September 23, 2007, 07:00 AM)
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I have to agree with mouser on this.

You have to decide what line of business you are in:
1. Are you making games to sell to honest people?
2. Are you making free puzzle games for crackers?

You will always be doing #2, no matter what protection you use.

How much time & money do you want to invest in providing free puzzle games for crackers? How much fun do you want them to have? They will solve any puzzle game you throw at them, eventually.

Go with enough protection to keep honest people honest and enough protection to keep the comic book company satisfied that you have made a reasonable effort to protect their property.

If the comic book company wants something stronger and more expensive, maybe you should suggest they buy you a license for the protection you'll be using. I don't think you would have a problem using any solution they told you to use, as long as they were paying for it. And when they see the cost, they might see things your way with the more reasonable priced solution.

I'm afraid mouser is right.

Okay, first off: use a "wad"/"pack"/"bigfile" approach, instead of individual files... (ie., like ID software have been doing since doom and earlier). This will keep regular users from messing around, but will be "no match for batman". You can add encryption on top of that to prevent hexeditor-capable users from identifying file signatures, but obviously this won't stop reverse engineers.
-f0dder (September 23, 2007, 07:06 AM)
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That's a good approach. It keeps the files from being easily accessed by the common user.

Another thing you can do is what some web designers & artists do with their images on the web...chop them up in pieces and fit them together in the game to appear as a single image.

If someone manages to get the images out of whatever way you packed them, they will not be all that usable without having a ton of fun fitting them back together in photoshop, which would be time consuming work. It would be faster and easier to just scan the comic books for the images if they want them that bad.

But keep in mind that there are tools available to make screenshots of games, so they might not need to do much work to get what they want any way. And there really isn't much you can do to stop that kind of copying.

About the only thing you can do is get a list of the tools they would be using, and try to detect them and shut down the game if any are detected running. (and don't forget to detect if the game is running on an OS in something like VMware)


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