Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cracks, serials and keygens oh my!

What in the world am I talking about? I'm talking about bypassing limitations on software, extending trial periods of software, and unlocking a demo version to the full version of software! Yes this is completely illegal. Let us shed some light on the concept first.

Software developers make software for us to use and to be productive. They invest thousands of hours of developing and designing these programs. They need to be paid, just like you and I. They have salaries, families, expenses, and should be properly compensated. They have more than likely invested tens of thousands of dollars in training and education. Their employers absorb the costs of development and testing until finally, the product is ready for public release and for sale. Many software companies release trial or demo versions of their software. These trials and demos are usually time limited or feature limited (crippled) until the trial expires. At this point, you either have to purchase the product, or uninstall it from your system.

More recently, software is released that is free, however there is a catch - that being that the software is advertisement driven, or adware driven. You are permitted to download and use the software in a fully functional state, however the software manufacturer may present you with graphical ads in the software interface itself. Other methods of adware may even collect personal browsing information and use that for statistics and research purposes.  Spyware goes one step further and does this without your consent. it may also collect passwords and credit card information. 

The consumer has the option to either purchase the software, or use the trial version until it expires, then remove it. No other option. This infuriates many consumers as they believe either that the software costs far too much to begin with, or they only need it for occasional use and should be able to purchase the software cheaper.   

Enter the world of cracks, serials and keygens. These are all buzz words used to bypass the limitations of software. each produces the same end result - bypassing the expiry date, or unlocking trial versions of software.

How do they work? Like this:

Serials (serial number) - someone, somewhere, purchased to license in the form of a serial number piece of software and this serial number. This serial number was then either leaked to the Internet, or stolen from a computer. It may have also been artificially generated using a key generator (serial number creator) and then leaked to the Internet.

Keygens - a serial number generator in the form of small standalone application that is run to create a serial number. Most of the time, the keygen is created by a software developer, a hobbyist or a hacker. They create a program to generate a serial number in a given format for the program they are trying to crack.  

Cracks - a modified program that is used to bypass activation or verification of legitimacy. Typically, the original software has a sole exe that is run to open the program. That exe is reverse engineered and modified. The exe is then used in place of the original exe. Cracked software bypass time limitations, and demo functionality.

Either of these three methods can produce a fully functional application that was previously locked, expired, or feature limited. You can find them just about anywhere, however there are risks. Many cracks are used as tools to deliver spyware and viruses.  

On the flipside, many cracks are designed with no ill intentions to the user, and they are just created to allow you to use the software. They do hurt the software developers, and they lose profits from every cracked piece of software.