Button Up

Dmitri Kirillov, an independent developer

Dmitri Kirillov, an independent developer

1. Getting started:
I work as a design engineer and use the AutoCAD and KOMPAS programs in my work. I wrote an application to increase workforce productivity for these programs. First I tested my application in our department and after receiving positive feedback I decided to offer it to a broader audience.
The main problems for me were adding copy protection and finding a store to sell my application. I started with the second problem and searched all kinds of Internet resources.  I accidentally found the Allsoft.ru online software shop, where you can sell your products and protect them with the shop’s facilities. Actually it solved both problems at once. After I signed the contract, I got protection and a platform to sell my programs. Moreover, the installation of protection was completely free; this played a decisive role.
All went well until I started thinking about the parameters of protection. When I started to understand this was an issue, it appeared that the technical specialist at AllSoft.ru hardly understood the nature and methods of protection, which in turn led to constant disputes, re-protections and end-user dissatisfaction.
Eventually, I found out that Allsoft.ru uses the StarForce protection system. Therefore, when one morning -after writing another claim to the technical specialist- I received a reply that the protection installation service was not included anymore, I realized where I needed to go.

2. Why I chose StarForce:
Regarding to the protection, I already realized that it must meet the following basic requirements:

  1. The key should work only for a year or without time limitation.
  2. An opportunity to re-activate the key on another computer or after Windows reinstallation.
  3. Easy key activation, because end users do not understand anything in 95% of cases.
  4. The protection system must have an activation server to activate keys via Internet.

In the past I used StarForce to protect my programs, and at first I decided to check all the information on the StarForce web site, but because I did not find the cost of products, I started looking for other variants.
I installed the found protection software, and tested it trying to understand how it works. Here is a brief overview of the applications that I have tested:
ASProtect is affordable software with inexplicable results in 50% of cases: either the protection didn't work or restrictions were not applied as I planned.
Enigma Protector met all my needs in principle, but I didn't understand how to set up a 1 year limitation for serial numbers.
VMProtect is almost identical to Enigma, but the activation server is in incomprehensible condition, which even the developer did not really understand. The cost for the program surprised me much.
After I explored and tested all the options, I began to test their tamper resistance: I visited websites with cracked software and sites where you can make an order to crack software; I watched which programs were compromised, and what protection was implemented in it.

The result of my own evaluation of tamper resistance:
Software protected with the most recent versions of VMProtect were not being cracked for a long time, but the rest was broken almost immediately. StarForce I did not check

Search result:
Most suitable I found VMProtect, but this software has only one binding method to a hard drive, and if you reinstall   Windows, the 1 year restriction is reset.
Enigma Protector is also an interesting thing but it also only offers drive binding and as I have mentioned, I couldn’t find an option to set a time limitation for keys and this is crucial. 
The main minuses of VMProtect and Enigma Protector for me are the high cost for the first and low tamper resistance for the second.
As I didn’t find an obvious leader, I decided to request StarForce’s prices. And I was surprised, because it turned out that StarForce protection has a 1 year license fee and additional payments for keys. Logically, it should be a one-time payment for the program for small money and additionally for keys, or a one-time big payment for the program and unlimited keys as a bundle.
It took some time for me to decide, but I finally chose the already proven option - StarForce; and in March 2015 I signed a contract with them. Now, all my needs are met:

  1. The serial keys bind not only with the HDD (which complicates hacking a program).
  2. There is a 1 year restriction and it actually works.
  3. The activation server is up and running around the clock.
  4. No need to get any data from a user first and then send him/her the activation key manually, because in this case I must always be connected.
  5. The key is transmitted to the user only once; activation runs in automatic mode. On the user side there are no problems.
  6. No additional drivers are required.
  7. There is a deactivation option, necessary because 50% of users transfer the program or reinstall Windows.
  8. High tamper resistance.


3. Using StarForce
Prior to the acquisition of SF I did not install the protection by myself; I re-read the FAQ about 3 times and found no major problems with the setup of the protection system. Especially because every step and every action was covered in the manual. But I would like to see a more detailed description of the basic functions.
I created the projects, ran them and then checked on another PC. I saw that some of the settings were incorrect; I re-protected the projects and checked again. I developed a template to fit my needs.
Overall, I am satisfied with my choice, though I can not say that everything goes smoothly. Protection is not atrivial easy task.