If you look at the file sharing web sites you will see that there are a lot of expensive applications that are available for free on there. They were put there by people who were able to strip the protections off of them and place them on the web for others to share. And believe me people do share these applications. If you take a look at an application like Photoshop, you will see that it is shared by millions of people every time a new release comes out. That is why software companies try so hard to stop the pirates from being able to access the software without permission.
To stop this from happening they have tried a lot of different options. They have tried methods such as software keys that you have to call or log on to be able to access the software. And they have tried hardcore encryption where you have to be able to fill out the right personal information to get the keys. Some high level companies have even tried a method that is not used that often. It is called using a hardware dongle.
A hardware dongle allows you to plug in a piece of hardware such as a USB drive or something else similar into your computer. Once it is plugged in then you are able to start the application that you bought. And for a while this type of method did work. When people were able to pirate the software they still had to worry about getting past the hardware limitations. But then all of the sudden they were able to get past it as well. People were able to bypass the hardware dongle limitations through several different methods.
Most of the methods involved having the program either skip the hardware check totally or they found a way to simulate the hardware through the use of software. This is not something that is new. For years people have been able to simulate hardware with the use of software. If you look around the web you will see a lot of the older video game systems have popular emulators that are available to download. They allow you to be able to relive and play the video games from your youth. And it is this same type of technology that allows people to be able to simulate hardware against a software dongle.
But while a hardware dongle does not work against the most sophisticated of hackers, it does work against the average person who might be trying to pirate your software. But is this the kind of protection that you want? It has been proven that in recent history this type of heavy duty protection has been more of an inconvenience to the legitimate end user than it has to the hackers who found a way around the protection.
Not only that but protection like this makes the end user and you as the developer have to worry about another layer of security. You have to worry about someone not only compromising the software but also compromising the hardware dongle that comes with the software. We see hacked USB sticks all of the time. It is not that far of a stretch to think that someone would be able to do it to a hardware dongle as well.
Hardware dongles can make it harder for pirates to get into your software but they can also leave your end user vulnerable as well.