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Software Security The Almighty Buck

Software Deletes Files to Defend Against Piracy 544

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the users-delete-software-to-defend-against-idiocy dept.
teamhasnoi writes "Back in 2004, we discussed a program that deleted your home directory on entry of a pirated serial number. Now, a new developer is using the same method to protect his software, aptly named Display Eater. In the developers's own words, 'There exist several illegal cd-keys that you can use to unlock the demo program. If Display Eater detects that you are using these, it will erase something. I don't know if this is going to become Display Eater policy. If this level of piracy continues, development will stop.'"
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Software Deletes Files to Defend Against Piracy

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  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:20AM (#18133948)
    Considering that in our legal systems two wrongs don't make a right (and three rights make a Nazi demo...) vigilante justice like this should be punished. That developer better hope the court he'll face accepts EULAs as valid and he never travels into a country where they aren't.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by edward2020 (985450)
      And think of the even more egregious instance of a user acquiring a license that they think is valid only to find that this piece of crap has deleted their data. Additionally, is it possible that this piece of software could crap out and delete the data of a legitimate user (sorry, the only code I know is the Contra code for extra lives)? Also, a question, could a user backup up their home directory, install this crap software, and then restore their home directory and continue using the software?
      • by orkysoft (93727) <orkysoft@myr[ ]box.com ['eal' in gap]> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:52AM (#18134156) Journal

        Also, a question, could a user backup up their home directory, install this crap software, and then restore their home directory and continue using the software?

        I don't think so. At the time the software "decides" to delete the user's files, it also "knows" that it is a pirated version, and that the serial number is invalid (that triggered the deletion). Hence, it also "knows" that it shouldn't allow itself to be unlocked from the demo version.

        I think this is a very dangerous step: what if there was a bug that caused the software to delete your files without a pirated serial being entered?

        Besides, if the author sells activation keys, he knows who bought which one, and thus whom to sue when one of those keys gets posted on warez sites. Unless he doesn't use online activation with arbitrary keys, but instead has an algorithm in his program that determines the validity of the key. That's just asking to be cracked.

        Also, piracy tends to be a powerful weapon against your competition: you might not make money from the lost sale, but (1) your competitors won't either (2) the pirates gain familiarity with your software, and are more likely to choose it when placed in a situation where they can't use pirated software, or recommend it to friends, and your competitors don't gain this advantage. See also: Microsoft Windows/Office, Adobe Photoshop.

        • by rainman_bc (735332) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:56PM (#18134572)
          what if there was a bug that caused the software to delete your files without a pirated serial being entered?

          I recall a day where I bought myself a copy of Quake III Arena, and the key the game came with was already in use and identified as a pirate key - thanks to keygens.

          Makes me wonder how bulletproof this is.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by supersat (639745)
            From what I recall, id claims to have used DES to encrypt the keys. I'm guessing they simply encrypted a serial number with a secret key (that only id knows). Only the authorization server checks the key -- the game only checks whether the key is in the right format. While DES isn't uncrackable, it's not that easy to break either. I think it's unlikely that a real keygen exists. A more plausible explanation is that your copy wasn't actually new. Game stores often have equipment and supplies to reseal a box,
        • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Saturday February 24, 2007 @01:02PM (#18134622) Homepage Journal
          I think this is a very dangerous step: what if there was a bug that caused the software to delete your files without a pirated serial being entered?

          It is a very dangerous step. The risk you mention is there, and so are others. It is a step so insidious, so tempting, that it could change the entire viability of being involved in the software industry, putting one member of the developer/user pair at extreme risk, even to the point of going out of business or losing things dear to them. It is thoughtless, cruel, and unethical, yet the benefit is so tempting that this same member is unlikely to be able to resist it without at least some soul-searching. The idea of getting something so useful accomplished for just a tiny bit of extra work — regardless of the consequences to the other party — is compelling indeed. So profound is the benefit, it may be that the mantle of social stigma one presumes would be associated with this type of activity will be assumed with pride, perhaps even hats and t-shirts bearing some type of cultural touchstone that signifies the wearer supports this will be produced. Yes, it displays a level of disregard that is no less than appalling to those of us who would like to think that the developer/user relationship would be one based on ethics that should be deeply ingrained into both parties; but we know these characteristics are widespread throughout not only one society, but the world's societies. Because we have seen all of this before.

          In the software piracy community.

          I suspect that developers in general have worked up just about the same regard for software pirates as the software pirates have displayed for them over the last few decades. That would be... none. So if this gets a foothold, it may be that the only thing that can stop it will be legislation. The only salient difference here is that developers tend to be easily found and prosecuted, as compared to pirates, and utterly toothless though congress and the states have proven to be with regard to protecting the developer's interests, I rather doubt they'll allow the developers to act as judge, jury and executioner in the matter of people who appropriate IP from them without providing the asking price.

          So this is probably a tempest in a teapot. It'd be nice if it made the pirates think about what they are doing, but if there is one thing I am sure of, it is that software pirates don't do a lot of deep thinking. These are people with the behavior patterns of small, scheming children. Knowing they are unlikely to be caught, nothing remains to hold them back; they are truly ethical simpletons. I am sad to see developers falling to their level. But I am not surprised.

          • by Hamoohead (994058) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @03:03PM (#18135472)
            In Soviet Russia, files delete YOU!
          • by pilkul (667659) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @03:15PM (#18135554)

            Because we have seen all of this before. In the software piracy community. I suspect that developers in general have worked up just about the same regard for software pirates as the software pirates have displayed for them over the last few decades.

            Since when do software pirates hack into developers' systems and delete their stuff? Even in the rare cases like the famous HL2 hack at Valve, code was copied out not deleted.

            These are people with the behavior patterns of small, scheming children.

            Small, scheming children hoard everything for themselves, they don't share everything freely with the world. (Whether the things shared are "stolen" is a separate matter.) Developers like this one, with callous, selfish antipiracy measures are the only ones resembling children here.

            it is that software pirates don't do a lot of deep thinking.

            I see you don't either, since your comparison is baseless and driven only by your obviously deep-seated visceral hate of pirates.

            It is thoughtless, cruel, and unethical, yet the benefit is so tempting that this same member is unlikely to be able to resist it without at least some soul-searching.

            I make my living as a developer and I am not tempted to implement this measure in my software one iota. The fact that you do (and project your feelings onto others) is telling about how irrational and hateful you are in this matter.

            • by Afecks (899057) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @03:31PM (#18135670)
              You hit the nail on the head buddy. A long time ago I figured out that there are 2 kinds of people. Those that are willing to pay for software and those that aren't. No amount of threats, begging or trickery is going to make a dent in changing the ratio of those 2 groups. The only thing you can do is help prevent those that are willing to pay from bypassing you and getting it for free.

              That is the only sane reason for any kind of copy protection. It must be done so as to make getting a free version more trouble than getting the legal paid version. You must put your paying customers on a pedestal above the pirates. If you treat them like criminals you may find them becoming more like them everyday.

              I know several groups of software crackers and I understand the mentality behind them. They crack software because it's a challenge and there is some pride to be had. The last thing you want to do is piss them off or give them any room to think they are "doing the right thing". Yes piracy stings as a software developer but as long as you are making money it shouldn't sting enough for you to scorn your customers.

              But go ahead make the customers into criminals and the pirates into heroes. Then when you have zero user base you'll finally realize where you went wrong.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ShieldW0lf (601553)
                There are three types of people, actually.

                There are those whose means far exceed their demand for software and media, they would rather drop a couple hundred dollars on something than fuck around with serial sites in the first place. These people don't see any problem with copyright because it doesn't cause them any. There aren't very many of these people, but they do make all the laws.

                There are those who cannot afford all the software and media they would like and would rather break the laws than do with
        • by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @01:15PM (#18134710) Journal
          Also, piracy tends to be a powerful weapon against your competition: you might not make money from the lost sale, but (1) your competitors won't either (2) the pirates gain familiarity with your software, and are more likely to choose it when placed in a situation where they can't use pirated software, or recommend it to friends, and your competitors don't gain this advantage.

          That is a very interesting point. I'd never thought of that before.

          This developer should be ashamed of himself. Two wrongs don't make a right has been said. This is akin to taking a shotgun to someone stealing an apple. Absolutely reprehensible behaviour, and I hope he suffers dearly for this Russian Roulette style of copy protection.

          And let's not forget... Typos... The developer may think "Oh yes, well the odds of someone typing a key wrong that happens to match the ones that trigger deletion is incredibly small..." To which I point to the 6/49 style lottery. Chances of winning, 16 million to one. People still win it though. Regularly.

    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:41AM (#18134090) Homepage
      Flamebait? Odd "Nazi" comment aside, this is broadly sound.

      I'm no rabid anti-copyrightist and I can understand the guy's frustration and desire to do something about piracy. However, his actions strike me as both ethically and legally dubious. Whether it's it's morally acceptable to damage someone's computer even if they pirate your software is one thing. Legality is another kettle of fish. There are issues as to whether he made the program's behaviour clear in the EULA, and even if he had whether this would make his actions acceptable.

      Even if it were, this guy had better hope that his protection scheme doesn't go wrong and delete stuff when someone types in a key incorrectly (or types it in correctly and the program messes up anyway). We all know the BS some software goes through when it decides that what are supposedly legal keys are actually illegal; does anyone want to take that risk? What is his legal exposure if someone inadvertantly buys a copy with pirated keys from a dubious source?

      Their responsibility? IANAL, but I wouldn't want to risk that line in a court of law.

      He says that

      I don't know if this is going to become Display Eater policy. If this level of piracy continues, development will stop.
      Someone else replies

      Please stop writing code. You'll do the Mac community a huge favor by never showing your face here again.
      And I have to say that this pretty much sums it up.
      • by Zordak (123132) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @01:28PM (#18134810) Homepage Journal

        There are issues as to whether he made the program's behaviour clear in the EULA, and even if he had whether this would make his actions acceptable.
        Destroying a user's data is an intentional tort. You cannot waive intentional torts by contract in any jurisdiction of which I am aware. So the author is pretty much toast here.
        • by Pendersempai (625351) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @03:06PM (#18135486)

          Destroying a user's data is an intentional tort. You cannot waive intentional torts by contract in any jurisdiction of which I am aware.

          Patently false. Hitting you in the face is an intentional tort: battery. But sign a waiver, put on boxing gloves, and enter into a boxing ring with me, and you'd be completely without legal recourse when the fight begins. Consent, if properly expressed by contract, is a very effective defense to an intentional tort.

          Now you might argue that there's no valid consent here, that the contract is ambiguous or non-binding for a number of reasons, but that's a different argument entirely.

          • by Zordak (123132) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:25PM (#18136450) Homepage Journal

            Competitive sports are a special class where generally all but intentional torts are waived. What you're missing here is that for there to be a tort, first there must be a duty to the aggrieved party (i.e., in general, I have a duty to not hit you). When you voluntarily step into the boxing ring for a match, there is no longer the duty not to hit your opponent. The nature of the sport is to hit him. In this case, society has expressed a policy in favor of allowing certain competitive sports, even where it conflicts with the policy of people not hitting each other.

            In contrast, if you have an otherwise valid contract that says, "I am allowed to hit Bill Gates, and said Gates waives any recourse against me," and Bill himself signs the contract, and maybe you pay him a billion dollars for the privilege, you are still not privileged to hit Bill Gates at your whim. The contract is void as a matter of public policy because we have a strong public policy against people hitting each other, and there is no overriding policy that defeats it in this case. This is true of any intentional tort. If you can find a judge willing to hold that the policy of paying software vendors overrides our policy of not intentionally torting each other, I'm sure the BSA would like to speak to him.

            And before anyone brings it up, yes, it's true that some morons in Congress once tossed around a law that said that the RIAA could destroy your computer if you downloaded music. They can get away with this because the statute, once passed, would trump the common law. So if you are rich enough to pay for a law, then you can have EULAs that allow you to destroy the user's home folder if he uses an invalid key. I doubt that this moron is.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nevali (942731)
            A software license (be it EULA or something else) is not a contract.
      • by smccurry (572146) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @01:36PM (#18134864)
        I have on more than one occasion used a "illegitimate" key rather than hunt down the real key. I've purchased enough software to fill 3 boxes, but sometimes its faster to find a key or crack on the internet than try to hunt down the legitimate key. Hey, I'm unorganized, I admit it. I even try to keep a text file with legitimate keys on my computers, but even those seem to be misplaced over time.

        If I had purchased this software legitimately, and used the wrong key, I wonder what my recourses would be if it deleted my files.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ariastis (797888)
      Display Eater has found that your ACDSee copy is illegal. Deleting C:\Pr0n\*.* Nooooooooooooooooooooooo....
    • by v1 (525388) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:05PM (#18134246) Homepage Journal
      Wouldn't this fall into the same category as boobytraps? You cannot legally boobytrap your car seat to injure someone that is trying to steal your car for example.

      More specifically, deliberate destruction of another person' propety is not lawful even if they are in the act of committing a crime, whether or not the crime is against you or anyone else. For example, if you see a man run into a bank and the alarm bells start going off and you know he is robbing the bank, if you pull out your pocketknife and slash his tire to stop him from getting away, you will still be held liable for the damge to the tire.
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:51PM (#18134552)

      Considering that in our legal systems two wrongs don't make a right vigilante justice like this should be punished.
      Yeah, let's form a vigilante posse and punish him!
    • by radtea (464814) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:58PM (#18134588)
      That developer better hope the court he'll face accepts EULAs as valid and he never travels into a country where they aren't.

      I don't see how this would ever be prosecuted.

      How would you prove that the deletion was malicious? He has carefully said the software will delete "something." Without knowing what, it is hard to prove anything. Stuff goes wrong with user's computers all the time. At one company I worked for we had a user blame a hard drive crash on our software. So a file gets deleted: prove it had anything to do with his software.

      The complaint would start with, "I tried to run an illegal copy of this software..." That'll be creditable.

      What if the software simply deletes itself? That would be the easiest and safest thing to do. Annoying to the would-be copyright violator, safe for the author.
  • Hope he likes prison (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:23AM (#18133972)
    At least here in the UK, I believe this would be a criminal offense. Of course the pirates might not want to report his crime, but he's still breaking the law.
    • Pirates might not, but legitimate users who typo'd might. I usually take a couple of attempts to enter a serial number (my brain doesn't seem to like long meaningless strings of symbols), so if I'd bought this I would probably be restoring from backups right about now.

      Fortunately, vnc2swf [unixuser.org] is free and easy to use.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:57AM (#18134190)
      At least here in the UK, I believe this would be a criminal offense. Of course the pirates might not want to report his crime, but he's still breaking the law.

      It is probably a criminal offense in the USA too, falling under the category of unauthorized access to a computer system. Based on the general advice that contract developers should not use software timebombs to insure payment, it is probably a civil offense too.

      Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, using someone else's serial number is not a crime - you can't copyright a serial number and the DMCA shouldn't apply to a valid serial# since it isn't an "access control circumvention device" any more than something like a car key is, and even if it was an invalid serial# certainly could not be one since it doesn't even work.

      I think this guy is setting himself up for a whole host of problems if he pisses off the wrong guy.
    • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:01PM (#18134218) Homepage
      At least here in the UK, I believe this would be a criminal offense. Of course the pirates might not want to report his crime, but he's still breaking the law.

      1. Purchase said application
      2. Try to activate it using a pirated key because you have "misplaced" your real key
      3. Sue the hell out of him
      4. Get a microscopic slap on the wrist for the key thing
      5. Get a massive damage award
      6. Profit!

      I can see so many ways to get the author in so much trouble over this. For example, send out SPAM advertising a 30-day free trial, using said serial number. He'll be drowning in criminal and civil lawsuits quicker than he can pull it from the market.
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:24AM (#18133976)
    Wow. He's certainly convinced me to give his software a try...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Millenniumman (924859)
      Here are some alternatives:

      iShowU [shinywhitebox.com] is my favorite video screen capture tool.

      SnapZProX [ambrosiasw.com] is okay, but much too expensive. Its interface isn't as good as iShowU

      I tried Display Eater a while ago, before this nonsense, and it wasn't very good. That's probably been a limiting factor in sales, which the developer interprets as piracy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Reziac (43301) *
        "That's probably been a limiting factor in sales, which the developer interprets as piracy."

        I remember in the previous discussion (linked in TFBlurb) the author of a particular program complained that he'd had several million downloads, but zero registrations. In his mind, all those millions of downloads were "piracy".

        Well, I could have told him why no one registered his program: I'd long ago downloaded and tried it, but no way would I pay for it -- it's just not very good, in fact it's probably the most li
  • what it deletes is an install file for the program, hey all the power to you.

    But even if I were pirating your program, you have no right to damage my computer.

    Also I don't run as a root.

    And I back up my files.

    Tom
    • Also I don't run as a root.

      Maybe not, but I'm willing to bet that whichever user you do run as has control over their own home directory, which is what this program wipes out...
      • True, hence the backups. I also don't run commercial proprietary software on my workstation. If it needs a CD key I don't use it. At the office, is another story. But there we have a lot more backups and control of errant processes.

        The point of writing software is to solve a problem, the point of supporting it is to make money. :-)

        Tom
  • Scale of response (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hawkinspeter (831501)
    I hope this developer never sells any copies - he is equating piracy with destroying people's information. If you pirate some software, you don't deprive the developer of his copy of he software (or source code), so why deprive the pirates of their own files? I know the argument of each pirated copy is a lost sale, but that blatantly isn't true. I hope this guy gets sued.
    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      he is equating piracy with destroying people's information.

      Actually, I don't see where he said any of that. I think you're assuming his motives/thought-processes to be those of a self-justifying Slashdot user; but there's no indication of this.

      It's just as likely that he doesn't give a toss about anyone that copies/steals his work, assumes they don't give a toss about him and (a) Wants to get his own back and harm them as much as possible, and (b) Discourage such behaviour in the future.

      • by paitre (32242)
        Be that as it may, this action on his part is MORE illegal (ie. the penalties are greater and are more likely to result in actual jail time plus severe financial penalties) than the actual act of piracy in the first place.

        Don't get me wrong, I am NOT supporting piracy of software, music, or anything else. However, his -reaction- to software piracy by including the equivalent of a software bomb isn't justifiable in any way, shape, or form.

        Disabling use of the software is easy, and would accomplish the exact
      • by shaitand (626655)
        So you're saying that you don't think he cares about getting justice. You believe that he acting out of pure spite?

        Could be. I have met numerous emotionally imbalanced individuals who would act in this manner. They care more getting their revenge against those who have committed imaginary slights than about progressing and growing in their own lives. In this case his revenge against people who weren't hurting him in any way (if anything an application gains a larger user base through piracy since those who
        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          So you're saying that you don't think he cares about getting justice. You believe that he acting out of pure spite?

          In his view, this probably *is* just; I'm saying that the projected self-justification given by the original poster isn't necessarily what he actually thought. If someone was vandalising my house, I might feel that it was just- or at least practical- to break the guy's f*****g arm. Whether this is actually right is another issue.

          if anything an application gains a larger user base through piracy since those who pirate software aren't the people who would buy the program anyway

          I'm not convinced that this is axiomatic.

  • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:26AM (#18133998) Homepage
    "There exist several illegal cd-keys that you can use to unlock the demo program. If Display Eater detects that you are using these, it will erase something ... If this level of piracy continues, development will stop."

    Uh, no. Development will stop as the police collect your computers as evidence that you are the developer and distributor of software that intentionally erases files without user permission.
    • It might just be an idle threat.

      It seems there would be too much liability to try and pull of a scheme like this
      • by paitre (32242) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:47AM (#18134118) Journal
        It's not.
        Reading the linked discussion thread, this 'feature' was discovered when someone tried to pirate the software so they could review it against the product they were writing.

        So... no, it's not an idle threat, and the author is a freaking asshole who deserves to have his reputation destroyed over this.
  • Seems to me that this is an ideal way to court legal action after a hapless user installs software "a friend gave me" and then ends up with a years' worth of financial records gone bye-bye.

    Clearly, piracy is not a contentious moral issue in the case of small software developers charging reasonable prices for their work, but this appears to be going too far. If one can detect the key's pirated and disable the software, why be an asshole about it? This could *so* come back and bite him in the ass.
    • by norton_I (64015)

      but this appears to be going too far


      This appears to be going to far in the same way that starting a war with Canada over their copyright laws appears to be too much.

      This guy is an amoral jackass, If only there were some way we could delete his source code database to make sure he learns his lesson...

  • Just try it with my PC and see how quickly you get sued into non existance, and perhaps even get hit criminal charges after i collect my money..

    You dont have the right to delete files due to a person mistyping some numbers. You do have the right to disable your software, nothing more.
  • With cracked executables and loaders, this protection still won't do really anything. All it does is tell the pirates, "Hey! Don't use serialz or keygens. Crack & Patch me instead!". I remember all sorts of brilliant protection schemes that were made to prevent things like this cracked in no more than a week. If there is a demand, it shall be cracked.

    To me, it seems that this protection scheme will only scare away the casual pirate and not the hardcore ones.
  • Vigilantism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xigxag (167441) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:39AM (#18134074)
    That's vigilantism, pure and simple. Doesn't matter if the person was a pirate or not, you're not allowed to commit a crime to protect your "property."
  • by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:54AM (#18134172) Homepage
    I write a shareware program (BlueBox Invoices) that lots of people have registered over the course of the past 9 years it has been around.

    It is a fully functional program WITHOUT registering, yet many people take the suggestion to register, and it pays for continued development.

    If you're going to get your panties in a knot over some people using your software, you probably should be writing some software more innovative than a screen caputure utility. The world is already filled with those.
    • Thank you (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:19PM (#18134332) Journal
      I just wanted to say thanks for operating this way, and I hope you've received enough from registrations to make it worth your while. I don't use BlueBox, but I appreciate the thought.

      I will admit that I have way too much pirated software on my system at home. Of course, I'm also not using most of it. For the most part, I prefer to demo software I've never used - it's just too hard to get through the marketing hype to determine if it really works for me. I must have thirty or forty apps for video conversion. I use three. No, scratch that - I'm down to two now. One is freeware, and the other I registered.

      Sadly, 15 day - and sometimes 30 day - trials just aren't enough. Because I'm busy, I may install something to try it, and then not really get to try it out fully for a couple of months. Which means I either get a cracked copy to try it, or I pass.

      While I may not have all the software I own registered, I make sure to register those that really help - even those that don't require it. Since I'm not a programmer, I do rely on these "little" apps to help out. Rename1-4a, IrfanView, and a couple of others I find indespensible. I always make sure I pay for anything I'm still using after 6 months. If I 'm still using it, it's got to be good enough to pay for. Oddly, I still have some crakced versions I use becuase I'm too lazy to enter the real SNs. I have two or three versions of Nero floating around, not all of them with legitimate SNs, but I have three consecutive version retail registry numbers I paid for, so I'm calling it even.

      Anyway, thanks for being generous. Some of us out here really appreciate it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by istartedi (132515)

        Sadly, 15 day - and sometimes 30 day - trials just aren't enough.

        I've been in that situation too. It shouldn't be that difficult to make the limit based on hours of use rather than date from install. It seems like that would be more fair. After all, if the app is just sitting there on my box, I'm not really using it. OTOH, if I've used it an hour a day on average for a month, then I've definitely become a user.

  • Before deleting files, there should be a 2hr warning, giving the pirate an opportunity to uninstall the software, or pay for it prior to deletion occurring. Make the user aware of the pending penalty in the EULA, and warn them continuously that harm will come to their computer if the software is not uninstalled or purchased through a flashing message on the machine.

    If that is done, I see nothing wrong with it at all.

    • Actually, he could just pop up an alert dialog box: "Erase all your files? OK Cancel".

      Most idiots hit OK without reading the dialog boxes during install. Might teach them TWO lessons!
  • I will never buy any software that has such functionality built in.
    I know its meant to triggered by pirated keys only, but I wouldn't take the risk that this couldn't ever get triggered by some bug.
  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:00PM (#18134216) Journal
    As I'm sure that the Slashdoters here aren't pirates worrying about getting punished for their piracy (they're law-abiding Slashdoters!), I think we should help this developer protect his weeks and months of labor legally. And here's how he should do it:

    Attention Users! Version 2099.0999 X of my software now comes with a special new feature! File deletion! To enable this great new feature, please find a pirated software key on the web and enter it. Any files that you have in "C:\Documents and Settings" will be deleted.

    FAQ for possible problems using this great new feature:
    • Some of my personal files aren't in "C:\Documents and Settings" and weren't deleted! -- At this time any files not in the "Documents and Settings" folder must be deleted by the user manually. We are exploring a great new "Format Drive C:" function for a future release.
    • But I have a tape backup of all my files! -- The best solution that our users have found for tape backups is fire. Be safe and go for your entire house just in case you've mislaid one or two tapes. Remember to save your pets! They aren't genetically related to you and can't pass on "pirate-genes."
    • I used a pirated key, but your software didn't delete by files! -- We apologize. Please forward us the offending keys and we will include them in the next release. However, you can still delete your files manually. Be sure to use shift-delete! Also see the above instructions concerning fire.
  • ...never ever in his life used illegal software. Or did he?
  • This guy must have one high opinion of himself and one low opinion of his customers. Why would I ever want to use this guy's product if it can willfully and maliciously destroy my system. Even if I am registered correctly if he changes my good serial number to be a pirated serial number then the next time his program phones home, *poof* there goes my digital videographic proof that I'm Anna Nichole's kid's true father and heir! What happens when I mistype my serial number? I've had serial numbers with b
  • Mac OSX (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:12PM (#18134292)
    This is why I use Windows. It's far too easy for malware to get onto a Mac and start deleting user files. PCs got over the delete random files / reformat phase of malware years ago. There's far more money to be made by keeping the machine alive.
  • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:15PM (#18134314) Homepage
    Now the page [versiontracker.com] shows it rated at the lowest value possible in all categories, and the comments are full of "don't buy this software" as well. I also noticed that searching for "Display Eater" on the site no longer returns anything, which seems to indicate they removed it from the listing.

    Talk about a moronic idea -- if piracy was already a problem, the result of this will be much greater than the problems piracy ever created. And ironically enough, this will make pirating the product a safer proposition. Do you want to use a legal version, which has this file deleting "feature" that might one day go wrong and nuke something? O do you get the pirated version with the file deleting code removed from it?

    This is a more extreme version of what happens with other sorts of copy prevention. There are games out there that run faster and more stable with the CD check disabled.
  • This would be shaky legal ground for the developer if he damaged someone's computer. The courts tend to take a dim view of deliberate sabotage, regardless of the perceived merits.

    There's a reason even the asshats at RIAA haven't gone this far.

    Welcome to the software business. If you can't deal with the realities get into another line of work.

  • On the one hand, I don't blame him at all for being really sick of all the warez people. On the other hand, I do blame him for choosing a harmful way to deal with it.

    Why not just, say, phone home with any useful information (user name, IP address) available to the program every time it's run, and then he can sue?
  • The existence of vigilante software like this is, in my mind, one of the strongest arguments for capabilities-based security. In traditional systems with ACL-based security (i.e., every popular PC operating system today), we really don't have a way to say "I trust this program to record video from my screen, but not to delete all of my documents." A properly-implemented capabilities system, on the other hand, could give us just that.

    See http://www.eros-os.org/essays/capintro.html [eros-os.org] for a better introduction

  • by remahl (698283) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:39PM (#18134462)

    The article and submission build on a misunderstanding. I conducted some research of my own and I've found that it does not attempt to delete the full home directory. It only deletes the ~/Library/Application Support/display_eater/ directory, i.e. files created by the trial version of the program. In fact, the developer says that the program will delete something from the home directory, but doesn't say what.

    While I didn't acquire one of the pirated serial numbers that trigger the behavior, I have disassembled the program and these are my conclusions: The deletion is done by a function destroy() at offset 0xd148 that takes a single argument specifying the path to delete. destroy is called from a single location in the program:

    +276 0000d3e4 3863a020 addi r3,r3,0xa020 ~/Library/Application Support/display_eater/ +280 0000d3e8 4bfffd39 bl _destroy

    destroy() loops over each thing contained by this directory and deletes it. I've invoked the function in this way, and it does not delete anything since that directory does not exist on my system.

    So, while this anti-piracy tactic sure won't convince any potential pirates to actually pay for the software, it is not as egregious as the summary suggests.

    It would be nice if someone would verify these conclusions, perhaps using a real pirated key.

  • by tb3 (313150) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @12:58PM (#18134584) Homepage
    To see what the fuss is about, I downloaded the 'demo' and took a look inside the executable. (No way am I running the damn thing!) There are some really amateurish icons and bitmaps, and the the string table reads like it was written by an emo kid. I'd reproduce some of them here, but fucking slashcode seems to be eating the long strings.

    Really, the whole thing looks like it was written by a goofy high-school kid. Since he is displaying the Apple Universal Binary logo on his site, I suspect he's in violation of the logo licence agreement, and I suspect Kagi, his payment processor, won't be too pleased with him, either.
  • Power Trip, Much? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @01:29PM (#18134814)
    In the developers's own words, 'There exist several illegal cd-keys that you can use to unlock the demo program. If Display Eater detects that you are using these, it will erase something. I don't know if this is going to become Display Eater policy. If this level of piracy continues, development will stop.'

    The sheer audacity of this guy's attitude over this problem is downright sickening. He's like one of those whiny little brats who'll only play a game until he starts losing, then trashes the game so no one else can cintinue playing.

    If you're going to develop software, then you have to accept piracy as one of the negatives. (Though, personally, if a piece of software I wrote was being pirated, I'd be flattered knowing people wanted it bad enough to invest their time into doing so.) It's not like this guy never saw this coming (given he already keyed the software ahead of time), so why screw you're paying users over by threatening to cease development over it when it backfires? Besides, these "pirates" likely wouldn't bother using the software at all had the keying stuff been made unbreakable to begin with.

    In the meanwhile, what happened to all this "trusted computing" junk that's supposed to "protect" us from stuff like this? Why aren't we sand-boxing all applications so that they only have basic read/write privileges, rather than having free reign over the system itself? Shouldn't we start looking into creating a centralized install/registration system where the OS itself handles the entire installation and approval/denial of software keys based on data the developers provide in the installation archive? That way, it is the OS itself that decides how to handle a pirated software key, rather than allowing individual developers to act as judge, jury and executioner without recourse. The developer in this article is exactly why we need such a system in place.
  • Video Flash Chat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattyrobinson69 (751521) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @01:36PM (#18134870)
    We bought a webcamming system from a company called Datetopia. If the php side of the software detected $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] wasn't the one it was registered to (eg: if you decided to buy video.mydomain.com and use that for it), then it would drop its tables in the database.

    The softare was badly written (used register_globals, etc), and lots of the code was put in an eval() (potentially a security nightmare), and obfusicated (base64'd, etc). We decided to scrap it, rather than reverse engineer it, so we wrote our own.
  • Illegal in the UK (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:52PM (#18136132)
    This is illegal in the UK. It quite clearly falls under Section 3 [opsi.gov.uk] of the Misuse of Computers Act 1990 [opsi.gov.uk].

    The fact that the aggrieved party may have been committing a crime by using the software without authorisation does not alter anything. Two wrongs do not make a right. Deleting files from a user's home directory goes above and beyond reasonable force and is a criminal offence punishable by five years' imprisonment and/or a fine.
  • From the website.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by XaXXon (202882) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:48PM (#18136684) Homepage
    Public Letter:
    I hope the public will read this entire letter.
    There has been alot of confusion regarding the copy protection of the program called Display Eater.
    It is described here in:

    There exists two illegal cd-keys that can be used to register the program without paying for it. When Display Eater detects these keys, it would delete your home directory.

    However, this is not the case in reality. The whole purpose was to create a scare campaign. You can download, the file linked from the main page, which is now down(the link is still intact), and check it for yourself. It has http://reversecode.com/index.html [reversecode.com]

    It was my hope that by creating a scare campaign, I could stop wasting time writing copy protection routines to be broken over and over. But, I was wrong, it backfired.
    People started buying multiple keys, which I never intended, and in the beginning when the protection was in place, people who did not even know they had committed piracy or what piracy was were left in the dark. Legitimate users started fearing the program, which I never imagined.

    A reporter called me today, and suggested that I make it free, and then have users pay for support. Or open source the program. I will consider all of these. -Reza
  • Malware (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aggressio (1014445) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @07:19AM (#18142074)
    Well, this was a great advertising campaign for his software, Display Eater, and any piece of malware he plans to code in the future.

    Now he claims that this was only a 'scare campaign' and the program doesn't actually delete anything. What ever might be the truth, I still wouldn't trust this person.

    I wouldn't dare to install anything from this guy, since there would be no way to know what kind of tantrum he was having when he was coding and what nasty suprises might come bundled with his software. Hiring this person would also be pretty risky. If he don't get high enough salary, he will plant a bomb in your companys software.

    I doubt that this guy can blame piracy for the lack of money he gets from his software. I think that if you actually write good enough application you will also get paid. And if nobody buys your program, I think you should first look into mirror and at your product. Is it good enough, how many people would actually need this kind of program?

    Or are there zillions of pirated copies of Display Eater around and this guy would be a millionaire if it wasn't for those nasty pirates?

    Well, after this publicity, there won't be any kind of Display Eaters around. Hopefully. And perhaps this developer should be introduced with the law, just to make sure that he won't be coding any more malware in the future. We have enough of that allready.

    Even if Microsoft and RIAA can get away with 'scare campaigns', you might not.

    I will remember this name, Reza and keep far away from your 'products'.

  • by cheros (223479) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @09:43AM (#18142624)
    Hmm, I just wonder what sort of lawsuits would follow if someone bought a legit key but made a mistake in entering it, or the registry entry gets corrupted (something that obviously never happens..).

    This is a simple breach of virtually any computer related laws I can think of. If you have a problem with piracy you're welcome to stop the program from working - you have, however, no right to act as judge and jury and become a vigilante, nor do you have right of access to the computing resources and information your code is near.

    In short, if you do that you're no better than a virus author and thus deserve the same treatment.

    You can't even plead temporary insanity (well, OK, maybe permanent insanity :-).

Thus spake the master programmer: "After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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