Right from the beginning, where there was paid software, there have been hackers cracking it. Where there has been hacked software there have also been people perfectly willing to use it, thus breaking the law. So it was obvious that this was going to be the case with the App Store, Apple’s immensely successful market place for iPhone applications.
Up to now, there hasn’t been much in the way of counteracting the use of cracked apps. There have however been the obvious methods such as informing the site hosting these illegal apps, so that they can be taken down, but nothing substantially effective.
Ben Chatelain, the developer of the app “Full Screen Web Browser” has now taken steps to protect his app from piracy, but within days of its initial release on the App Store, Ben received a notification via a Google alert that his app had been cracked and was being re-distributed by Appulo.
Ben, obviously furious that his hard work was being ripped off, did some research and came across an interesting blog posting that offers information on how to protect your app by making it crash if it detects that it has been cracked. He was apprehensive to try this method as he wanted to avoid the app crashing for legitimate users, and more importantly, when being put through Apple’s screening process.
Finally, after a lot of thought, he came up with the idea he has implemented in his most recent release. The app actually looks to see if it has been cracked and sends out pings to a server with a device identifier, so that he may track illegal usage of his app. If the app has been cracked, the server controls a demo period, so after the app has been run ten times, the illegal user receives a pop-up that gives them the choice to shut it down or purchase it. He has even included an extra message to the pop-up which says, “Purchasing a legal copy helps support independent software development and will help me feed my 1 year old baby.”
True or not, it may just appeal to some people’s better nature, and make them think twice about using illegally acquired software in the future, but it’s not likely.