Cracking (was Digital archaeology)

Jay West jwest at
Wed Jan 17 15:45:15 CST 2007

Richard wrote...
> As with most things, the amount of work done to protect an application
> is directly in response to the perceived threat.
Nah, I think it was more along the lines of how good a particular programmer 
or group of programmers a software manufacturer happened to have on staff. I 
don't think most companies actually spent time analyzing the threat and 
keeping their response equally measured. That's why a lot of companies 
eventually contracted with other companies who specialized in copy 
protection (everlok, etc.).

> I suspect
> that most software is like this -- find the one place where it polls
> the dongle and jump over that code.
Oh no... definitely not. Sure, there was definitely some code that was a 
simple no-op. But I wouldn't say that was the majority of applications. Even 
very very old applications got much more crafty than that. Those dongle 
checks were often spread all over the code, not just one place. Look at some 
of the copyprotection schemes used on the C64 "inside the drive" and it's 
amazing how complex they were back in that day even. Sierra had stuff that 
would make an adventure game take an unsolvable twist much later in the game 
if it sensed the copyprotection had been broken. Some games decrypt the code 
on the fly as it accesses the disk... so at least in my experience, there 
were definitely some "no-op the branch" and you're done, but that was a far 
minority of programs.

Jay West 

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