Wibu-Systems Blog

How to pick a software protection system

Posted by John Browne on Apr 7, 2011 6:00:00 AM

Recently I was asked by a developer about picking a license management /software protection system for .NET. Microsoft's popular platform for app development, .NET, is easy to reverse engineer unless you use strong security. Our solution has been proven uncrackable multiple times. A software-only solution is always going to be more affordable than a solution using a dongle, but a solution using a security dongle can be completely protected against all attacks.

It's crazy to me how many developers want to roll their own licensing system. I talked to someone recently who uses a dongle to encrypt a serial number. That is SO easy to crack, it's just nuts. It's like leaving a convertible in the street with the top down and the doors locked. Hello?

We're not the only copy protection tools vendor. If you want to protect your .NET code, you need to get SDKs/eval units, do plenty of research and testing, and determine what works best for you. Some criteria you might want to consider:

  1. Do you want to target any platforms other than .NET? Linux, Mac, ??
  2. Do you want to be able to provide easy activation in low-risk markets and stronger security in higher-risk markets?
  3. What pricing/business models interest you? You should be able to, at a minimum, support pay per use, pay per time (subscription), pay per user, concurrent licensing, and network licensing. Even better is pay use/feature/module.
  4. Do you want a demo or trial unit for marketing purposes?
  5. Do you want to enable use under VMs without having your license scheme subverted?
  6. Do you need any special physical requirements for a hardware device (unusual form factors, additional flash RAM, environmental ruggedness, etc)?
  7. Where can you get support from?
  8. Where do they ship from?
  9. What are minimum order quantities?
  10. Are there annual fees you have to pay, or is it pay as you go?
  11. How robust and complete are their software tools?
  12. How do you create and program licenses with their tools? Are licenses field-updatable? Are dongles field-updatable?
  13. If you are looking at a dongle, does it require a driver? Who supports your end-user for dongle issues, if any? What is the warranty on the hardware? What OS/versions does the vendor support?

The more I talk to developers the more I realize they are frequently unaware of a) issues around license management/copy protection and b) what tools are already available to solve these problems. There's a lot of mis-information out there (more about this in a future post). There's also a lot of downright hostility towards people who don't want to give away all their hard work. (I admire the open source community, but there are plenty of cases where open source just doesn't make sense.)

Ever discovered something that looked simple on the outside and was hideously complex under the hood (like, say, organic chemistry)? Copy protection is like this. If you had any idea how easy most stuff is to crack, or how much work we've invested in making our solution robust, you'd never dream of doing it yourself.

Topics: License Management, dongles, CodeMeter, software copy protection, software piracy, Copy Protection, FAQ, tools