How do pirates pirate?
April 23, 2010 8:31 AM Subscribe
When a software pirate cracks a program, what exactly does s/he do?
posted by Lifeson to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
As a layperson, it's easy to understand some forms of piracy: building a torrent of MP3 files ripped from CD can be done with any music program and a torrent client, and discs without security measures can be ripped as .iso files and shared with the medium of choice.
Conversely, say that a new game comes out with a new form of DRM. Within hours, someone has cracked the security and is illegally distributing modified versions of the game that bypasses the DRM. I don't understand how this is possible for closed-source/proprietary products. If the only pieces we have are various bits of compiled code, some in proprietary formats, how does someone explore those files to not only identify how the DRM works, but also modify the actual software to bypass those measures? If the DRM functions by contacting a separate server, how do pirates figure out how to spoof a validation message when the game company presumably does not publicize its DRM mechanisms?
Obviously, I don't want step-by-step information about how to perform illegal activity. I want help understanding concepts of software engineering. Are compiled objects much less opaque than I understand them to be? If we don't know what language the software was coded in or what compiler turned it into software, how do software engineers explore its internal workings? How do programmers modify that software when they don't have the source code?