A software generally falls into one of the following categories:
- Open Source Software (freely available + source code is available free of cost)
- Freeware (freely available)
- Shareware (some or all features of the software are available for a limited period of time or all features are available for a limited period of time and then the software is locked till it is purchased by making a payment)
- Commercial (payment is required to download and use the software)
Commercial software has an associated price tag since they provide advanced features which free software may not provide. But the reality is that not everyone wants to purchase software, and moreover, not everyone can afford to purchase commercial software. To overcome this, some hacker may modify the commercial software in such a manner that he will be able to use all the features of the said software.
To do this, he needs to change the code of the program and introduce his own code into the program so that the features of the software are unlocked. This version of the software is now called “cracked” version of the software (it is called “cracked” since the hacker has cracked or bypassed the inbuilt security of the software). Furthermore, he may supply this pirated software to others via physical mediums like USB drives, CDs, DVDs, etc and through the internet. This is the one and only benefit of pirated software over regular commercial software.
On the other hand, there are a lot of drawbacks of using cracked software:
- It is unstable and may stop functioning when you are doing important work.
- It does not work on all computers similarly.
- It is often found to be embedded with malware which may harm your computer or steal your important data.
- It will never get customer support no matter how important your data is.
- Use of cracked software may land you up in legal problems.
- It often cannot be updated from official website. A vulnerable bug in the software may be left unpatched and hence leave the user vulnerable to external threats.
- Most importantly, the hard work of the persons who developed the software is undermined.
- In worst case scenario, the cracked software may allow some person to get control of your computer itself or hold your data for ransom.
For Wikipedia entry on Software Cracking, click here.
For more posts on Cybersecurity, click here.
For more posts in The Cyber Cops project, click here.