The software industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. The software has become an important part of our lives, both personal and professional. As a result, software companies and developers have to protect the software from being copied or used unlawfully by others.
Everyone is familiar with software piracy, but few understand just how easy it is to hack into a software program and make a copy. However, the measures that most commercial software developers take to prevent piracy are not all that sophisticated. That’s because there is no way to prevent software piracy.
How Do Companies Protect Software 2022
The best way to prevent software piracy is to create an unbreakable licensing system that requires a unique key for each installation of the software. A good licensing system will also provide end-users with an easy way to enter this key and use the program without going through a complicated installation process.
A licensing system will allow you to track copies of your software in the wild, but it does nothing at all to slow down the actual act of copying. If a hacker has access to your software and can build his or her version of it, then your licensing system means nothing.
How Do Companies Protect Software 2022
- Software licensing agreements
- Registration keys/codes
- Activation codes
There are many different methods for protecting software. Below are some common methods:
Software Licensing Agreements
When you purchase or download a piece of software, you are asked to agree to certain terms. These terms include how you can use the software, whether it can be copied, and what happens if it is not used within the terms outlined in the agreement. These agreements are often referred to as a “license” and you are often referred to as a “licensee”. There is no need for a formal contract to create a license agreement, but they are usually written down to avoid confusion later on.
Software licensing agreements are legal documents that govern your relationship with the software company. There are many different types of software licenses out there; this article will focus on the two main kinds of licenses: EULAs (end-user license agreements), which govern your rights to use the software, and SLAs (service level agreements), which govern your rights to support and updates for the software.
EULA ( End User License Agreements)
Makers of proprietary software typically provide users with a EULA. This type of license is a legal contract between you and the software company that governs your use of their product. You might have seen these when installing new programs on your computer — you have to agree to the EULA before proceeding. These include things like how many computers you can install the program on, what you can do with it, and so forth.
SLAs (Service Level Agreement)
In addition to a license agreement, makers of SaaS products typically also provide users with an SLA. The SLA is a legal contract between you and the software company that governs their obligations to provide support and upgrades for their products.
The company that develops and sells a software product generally licenses (rather than sells) the product to its customers. The license agreement is an important document because it defines the rights of the licensee, i.e., the customer.
Here Are Some Of The Key Elements Of A Typical License Agreement:
- Permitted uses and restrictions: The agreement usually allows the licensee to use the software on only one computer or device, although it might allow use on additional computers owned by the same person or company. It typically prohibits copying, transferring, or conveying the software to any other person or entity or making any adaptation or modification of it without the licensor’s prior written consent.
- Term and termination: The agreement generally covers a specific term (perhaps a year), but it often includes provisions that continue beyond that period. For example, if you’re allowed to make a backup copy of the software, it may be unlawful for you to use that copy after your license expires. Or if you’re allowed to use an updated version during the term, you may have to destroy all previous copies once your term expires.
- Warranties and disclaimers: The licensor will warrant (promise) that your licensed copy of its software is free from any malware that was introduced deliberately by its developers
Once a user purchases or downloads the software, they will receive a registration key (sometimes called a validation key) that allows them access to all or part of the program’s features. The registration key may also be needed to activate the product on your computer. Sometimes registration codes will expire after a certain period.
When you purchase the software you generally receive a product ID or key code to use when installing the program on your computer. These unique codes are provided so that only the purchasers can install and use the software. The protection of software through product keys is necessary because of the ease with which most programs can be copied.
What Are Product Keys?
Product keys, also known as activation keys, are a specific software-based security feature for Microsoft Windows, its related programs, as well as many of its popular commercial products like Microsoft Office.
The product key is usually located on the inside cover of the CD/DVD case or a label located on the software box. In some cases, it may also be printed directly onto the CD/DVD itself. If you have purchased a digital download (e.g., from an online retailer or directly from the publisher), you will have received your product key in an email message.
Another way software companies protect their software from piracy is through registration keys/codes. If you purchase a legitimate copy of a program, you will receive a license key or serial number which will be entered during the installation process.
Nowadays, many programs that are downloaded can be installed right away without needing to enter any key. Others will require you to complete an online form with your name and email address before you can use their program, but this is not the same as entering a registration key.
Once the software has been installed, it can be run in trial mode which typically lasts for 30 days. After that time, the program will stop working unless you have entered a valid registration key/code.
If the program doesn’t work after entering the serial number, then it could be because it’s fake or pirated.
Software may be encrypted so that it cannot be copied or modified. Some software programs use a combination of encryption and activation codes as a form of copy protection.
The software is stored in an encrypted form on the hard drive and requires a decryption key to run. There are two main ways of doing this:
The file is encrypted as a whole, with the key distributed separately from the software. This has the advantage that it can be applied to any program without modification, but if the user loses or forgets the key they will not be able to run the program. This is also known as a license disk, dongle, or CD-key.
Source Code Based Encryption
The source code is encrypted with a key unique to each customer and cannot be decrypted without that key. The idea is to make it hard to reverse engineer the software.
There are many ways to protect software. The best protection is to just keep the source code secret. If you don’t let anyone see it, then they can’t reverse engineer it.
However, if you want to distribute the software, then that’s not an option. So other approaches have been developed. The first one is to make it hard to decompile and disassemble the software.
Programming languages like C are vulnerable because they generate machine code that is easy for a computer to understand and execute, but also easy for humans to understand too. So there are programs called “decompilers” that can turn machine code into readable source code, at least in some cases. To make this harder, there are several techniques:
Make the assembly language hard to read by doing things like rearranging the order of instructions in clever ways and using clever tricks when you call functions or access data. This doesn’t stop decompilation, but it makes it harder for people to figure out what’s going on from the assembly language alone.
Encrypt or compress portions of the executable file so that it’s impossible or hard for a decompiler or disassembler to work on those parts
Activation codes are serial numbers provided by the software publisher that enable users to install the program on their computer, often with limitations on how many computers the software can be installed on at any given time. An activation code is often required when a user downloads free software from the Internet or purchases software at a discounted price through an online retailer such as Amazon.com or Buy.com.
Product keys or registration numbers. A product key or registration number is a unique combination of letters and/or numbers that must be entered into the software upon installation or before it can be used. In some cases, an individual product key is included with each copy of a piece of packaged software purchased in stores; in other cases, a single product key is provided for all copies sold to one customer for use in multiple installations.
Software developers work hard to create new products, and they deserve a chance to profit from their creativity. The same is true of artists, authors, and other creators, who use copyright and patents to protect their creations.
Software developers use similar legal protection called a software license. A license is a legal agreement that gives the user permission to download, install or run the program in some way. It also permits users to make backups or copies, if that’s allowed.