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Lost security dongle
July 20, 2008 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I've lost my security dongle! How can I get another one?

I just bought some very expensive software, and I lost the security dongle right away!

I checked the documentation, and it seems that I have to buy another copy of the software!

Since I just bought it, I'm considering calling the company and telling them that I didn't recieve the dongle. Do you think this would work?

Also, can I use a friend's dongle? Are they interchangable?
posted by TigerCrane to Computers & Internet (34 answers total)
 
I doubt that using a friends dongle would work. If that were the case, someone who found your dongle would have access to that software, wherever it was installed.
posted by Solomon at 10:45 AM on July 20, 2008


I see no ethical problem in taking measures to use the software you've legally purchased. I'm sure if the software's at all popular, you could google a crack for it with little trouble.
posted by Oktober at 10:50 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Have you tried calling the company?
posted by meta_eli at 11:06 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding meta_eli, and why lie? How do you know the dongle is actually lost?
posted by rhizome at 11:24 AM on July 20, 2008


It depends on the software company involved, but in general a hardware dongle essentially is the software. They'll send you more install CDs until the cows come home, but the hardware key is irreplaceable.

Call the vendor and tell them the truth. If you've installed the software, chances are they know that you have the dongle and have used it. If you haven't and you're nice maybe they'll help you out. Trying to jerk them around will make them much less likely to help you, not more.

Put your hardware keys on your homeowner's/renter's insurance.

You could download a crack off the internet (beware of malware) but tech support, 3rd party plugins, and upgrades will most likley require a legitimate dongle and the code your personal one returns.
posted by Ookseer at 11:34 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


COMPANY: "Hello, you've reached COMPANY, how may I assist you?"

YOU: "Hi. My name is NAME. I have lost my hardware dongle."
posted by odinsdream at 11:44 AM on July 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


The company's made it pretty clear that a lost dongle renders me SOL.

I doubt that using a friends dongle would work. If that were the case, someone who found your dongle would have access to that software, wherever it was installed.

See, if that wasn't the case, why wouldn't they just give me another dongle, unless they were afraid I was going to pass it on or sell it to somebody else?
posted by TigerCrane at 12:01 PM on July 20, 2008


If you've installed the software, chances are they know that you have the dongle and have used it. If you haven't and you're nice maybe they'll help you out.

So the dongle registers itself? Or does the software know that its already used a particular dongle?
posted by TigerCrane at 12:03 PM on July 20, 2008


The dongle is a USB device, like a mouse or a scanner, except that it doesnt DO anything except prove its present. Some of them do fancy question/response queries (THE PASSWORD IS bob, WHATS YOUR RESPONSE USB KEY?) and that tells the software its present and legit. Some work in other mysterious ways.

Your software likely checks at every instance that the USB dongle is present, and uses its authentication mechanism to prove that its legit.

What software company is this you speak of?
posted by SirStan at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2008


The dongles should be interchangeable for the same program, although some may be version specific.

You may want to check with the company anyway. They may have an unofficial replacement policy. You won't be getting anything for free, but they may give you a reduced rate.

Also, if you used a credit card to purchase the software, it may have protection features that will replaced it if stolen. Check the features on your card.
posted by Yorrick at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


How do cracks work?
posted by TigerCrane at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2008


How has the company made this clear to you if you haven't called the company yet?
posted by odinsdream at 12:25 PM on July 20, 2008


How do cracks work?

Inside the program there is a module that checks the dongle and then reports to the main program that everything is OK and authorizes the program to continue.

To make a crack a hacker decodes the program, then rewrites the dongle checking module to always report back that everything is OK. They then recompile the program.

You replace the main program with this cracked version and everything works without the dongle.

The problem is, if they have enough skill to do this, they probably have the skills to hide whatever other programs they want within that program.
posted by Yorrick at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2008


Why have you not called Tech Support for the company? If you've spent a large amount of money with them they'll probably go out of their way to help you?

Did you really buy this software? I suppose I should give you the benefit of the doubt but your previous "Why were the Americans at war with the Japanese?" (Do my homework) question doesn't inspire confidence.

Why would you be so interested in cracks without even calling Tech Support?
posted by sharkfu at 12:57 PM on July 20, 2008


You're aware that it's a security dongle, yes? And that if it were replaceable, it wouldn't provide very good security, right?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have found that some dongle based software isn't keyed to a serial number (and sometimes not even a version...). So, depending on the software, yes, you can use your friend's dongle.
posted by filmgeek at 1:19 PM on July 20, 2008


Call the company and tell them the truth. They may be surprisingly flexible.

A friend's dongle may or may not work, depending on how they've set things up. Some software uses interchangeable dongles; some software binds the dongle to the computer the first time the software is run (by storing information about the computer in the dongle's memory). Their documentation should explain which of these is the case. (Customers need to know what to do when they upgrade their computer, after all.)

If you can't get another dongle, there are a couple of cracking possiblities: a cracked version of the software (to which the crackers may have added all sorts of evil things), or a piece of software that emulates the actual dongle hardware. An emulator may or may not be available for your particular model of dongle, and it will probably need to copy some information off of an actual working dongle. And even this may not work; some dongles have unique IDs, and the company can store some critical information in the dongle memory, encrypted with the dongle ID, so that each dongle's memory is unique, and you can't just make a straight copy--you need to crack the ID encryption.

Anyway, as you might imagine, trying to get another one from the company is definitely the simplest thing to do. Trying your friend's dongle to see if it works is the second-simplest thing to do, but be warned that if the company is really paranoid/vindictive, this might render the dongle inoperative. (Odds of this are very low, but it is possible.)
posted by equalpants at 1:27 PM on July 20, 2008


Why have you not called Tech Support for the company? If you've spent a large amount of money with them they'll probably go out of their way to help you?

As I already stated, the docs state that the dongle is not replacable, and that I'll have to re-buy the software.

Did you really buy this software?

Yes.

I suppose I should give you the benefit of the doubt but your previous "Why were the Americans at war with the Japanese?" (Do my homework) question doesn't inspire confidence.

Actually, the question was "Why were the Japanese allied with the Germans?". American interests in the Pacific were a related afterthought.

Are you the jerkoff that responded "because they bombed Pearl Harbor"?

Why would you be so interested in cracks without even calling Tech Support?

See my answer to your first question.
posted by TigerCrane at 1:53 PM on July 20, 2008


"
Why have you not called Tech Support for the company? If you've spent a large amount of money with them they'll probably go out of their way to help you?"

Yeah. You are naive enough to believe that the war was about Pearl Harbor.


From the Docs:

"If this security device is lost or stolen, you will need to purchase a new set of software at significant cost."
posted by TigerCrane at 2:01 PM on July 20, 2008


It seems that, at this point, you unwilling to accept the required courses of action, which are:

1) Find the thing.
2) Call (ignore the documentation you keep citing and realize that there may be exceptions, especially within any possible recision period your locality may offer. The longer you delay this, the less likely you are to have exceptions available to you).
3) Crack it or pony up for the loss.

My advice is more on a meta level though: If you don't want to hear answers, don't ask questions.
posted by Rendus at 2:07 PM on July 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


ignore the documentation you keep citing and realize that there may be exceptions, especially within any possible recision period your locality may offer. The longer you delay this, the less likely you are to have exceptions available to you

That's a new proposition, and one I had not considered. I'm not optimistic, given what the doc says. They aren't open on weekends anyway.

Problem being that calling them and telling them that I lost the thing eliminates my options to go with plan A (claim I never recieved it.)

I'm definitely receptive to cracking or finding the thing, just a little confused about how to go about it.


I don't think I'm refusing to hear answers; sharkfu's retort was snarky and insulting and that's what I'm objecting to.
posted by TigerCrane at 2:15 PM on July 20, 2008


Here's the thing with cracks.

You can search the web (sites like crackfind, astalavista, subserials, etc) and try your luck. Keep in mind that your antivirus software can't tell the difference between a crack and a virus.

The real solution is to get into the scene. Start looking into irc and looking into how reputable cracks get released. There are many groups who stake their reputations on being crackers (not hackers) and will always provide high quality, non-virused cracks. Start reading NFO files and pay attention to who is making the posts.
posted by judge.mentok.the.mindtaker at 2:23 PM on July 20, 2008



What software company is this you speak of?


Stenograph
posted by TigerCrane at 2:26 PM on July 20, 2008


Here's the thing with cracks.

You can search the web (sites like crackfind, astalavista, subserials, etc) and try your luck. Keep in mind that your antivirus software can't tell the difference between a crack and a virus.

The real solution is to get into the scene. Start looking into irc and looking into how reputable cracks get released. There are many groups who stake their reputations on being crackers (not hackers) and will always provide high quality, non-virused cracks. Start reading NFO files and pay attention to who is making the posts.


IRC? You mean internet relay chat, right? Is there a FAQ/Intro on this stuff anywhere?
posted by TigerCrane at 2:27 PM on July 20, 2008


Calling and lying about not receiving the dongle might also leave you SOL if they have some way to verify that you've already received and used it. In which case they would definitely not want to help you and also I believe might become fraud (attempting to obtain by deception).

Just because the documentation says one thing, doesn't mean they might be more flexible in if you actually push the point.

The software from that company appears to cost over $1000, I say call your insurance company and claim it off that.
posted by chrisbucks at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tigercrane, I'm sorry that you're feelings are hurt but look at from the outside: your post would exactly like someone who was looking for a crack-- no real proof of ownership, an interest in cracks over calling customer service, a seemingly lazy attitude ("Is there a FAQ on this stuff?" yeah, try GOOGLE).

I urge you just to call customer service. Maybe if you throw yourself on their mercy they can cut you a special price to replace it. Good luck.
posted by sharkfu at 2:50 PM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


!]


Tigercrane, I'm sorry that you're feelings are hurt but look at from the outside: your post would exactly like someone who was looking for a crack-- no real proof of ownership, an interest in cracks over calling customer service, a seemingly lazy attitude ("Is there a FAQ on this stuff?" yeah, try GOOGLE).


I have a reciept and the original disks, but I wasn't aware that I needed to post scans.

I hadn't even considered cracks until somebody suggested it.

I did google cracks...the results frightened and confused me. A lot of sleazy looking websites, (many of which seem to want my credit card) and odd, jargony acronyms. There doesn't seem to be a "Guide for Cracks for people who want to be able to use the software that they paid for."
posted by TigerCrane at 2:58 PM on July 20, 2008



Calling and lying about not receiving the dongle might also leave you SOL if they have some way to verify that you've already received and used it.


Exactly! That's what I'm trying to find out here.
posted by TigerCrane at 3:00 PM on July 20, 2008


How to Find Lost Objects.
posted by scruss at 3:28 PM on July 20, 2008


If you don't already know how to look for cracks, it'll be hard to find one, especially for something as specialized as stenotyping software. In fact, I'd be surprised (not hugely, but somewhat) to hear that anyone's bothered cracking it - there's not the 'market demand' that there is for, say, games.

Basically: you're dealing with software specialized enough that very few people here on Mefi will have even heard of it, much less used it. But to be helpful beyond generalities like, "yeah, they might know that you've used it", we'd have to be familiar with the software. (I'd hazard a guess that the dongle doesn't call home - I've never seen a CART reporter who needed to connect to the internet while on the job - but I don't actually know.) That said, though, I'd advise pretty strongly against lying. I don't know about Steno in particular, but a lot of these smaller companies don't do business anonymously. You piss 'em off now, and they may not be willing to sell you the tools of your trade in the future. Typewell, while admittedly smaller than Stenograph, is known for this.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:10 PM on July 20, 2008


You're aware that it's a security dongle, yes? And that if it were replaceable, it wouldn't provide very good security, right?

Its a licensing scheme . Typically, you can grease the wheels with the company if you just call and tell them that you cna prove purchase with an invoice and you need a dongle. They may or may not play ball. I suggest trying regardless. If they dont threaten to go with a competitor and ask to speak with your sales rep or a manager. You need to learn how to deal with companies that use difficult licensing. The documentation, like a contract, are suggestions not hard and fast rules. This is negotiation 101.

Not to mention if you download some crack for this software theres a real chance this wont work but it will infect your machines with malware instead. This is the singlest biggest vector for malware (viruses, trojans, spyware, etc).
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:40 PM on July 20, 2008


Honestly, I smell something fishy here. I work for a software company that uses hardware keys, and I know a little something about software licensing. If you bought some "very expensive software" that is secured with a hardware key, then you would have signed a maintenance agreement at the time of purchase; otherwise you wouldn't have needed the key. Rest assured, if you legitimately purchased the software, the company will know that you not only purchased it, but when you purchased it and under what circumstance.

After looking at Stenograph's website, in more than one instance it states that problems with their security device can be handled through customer support, and they can provide a temporary access code to you so that you can continue to use the software until a replacement device is issued.

If you purchased the software recently, like you said, you are still an active customer with full rights to not only own and operate the software, but you are also given access to free upgrades and tech support. If you're not willing to use these resources, it does cast some suspicions on your actual situation, as does the charge that you would have to re-purchase the software. Some of our software goes for a few grand per license--to replace a hardware key, we charge a whole fifteen bucks.

So either contact customer support or ask the question you really mean, "How do I crack a really obscure piece of court reporting software?"
posted by tjvis at 11:24 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, I called them. It seems they want half of what I paid for the software, plus a processing fee.
posted by TigerCrane at 1:33 PM on July 24, 2008


. If you're not willing to use these resources, it does cast some suspicions on your actual situation, as does the charge that you would have to re-purchase the software. Some of our software goes for a few grand per license--to replace a hardware key, we charge a whole fifteen bucks.

So either contact customer support or ask the question you really mean, "How do I crack a really obscure piece of court reporting software?"


I suggest you go back and read the thread. I stated in the question that I was PLANNING on calling customer service, the question was what to say to them! Cracks didn't come up until somebody suggested them to which I basically responded "Gee whiz, what's a crack?"
posted by TigerCrane at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2008


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