Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A game of cat and mouse

As if iPhone developers don't have enough challenges simply dealing with Apple's somewhat unpredictable and arbitrary approval process, now there's the software pirates to worry about, too! There have been recent articles in the tech news circles talking about a new utility called Crackulous which makes it fairly simple for someone with a "jailbroken" iPhone or iPod Touch to steal apps rather than buy them in the iTunes store.

Since I am trying to make a living developing iPhone apps, I'd prefer people pay the 99 cents for my app rather than steal it. So, in my recent Time Bomb app, I included some code to detect when an app was running when it hadn't been purchased. I figured I'd be obvious about it and I pop up a message on the offending iPhone or iPod Touch and tell the user that the app was stolen and it won't function properly. And then, as promised, the app won't function properly.

Surprisingly, I just discovered that my app was in fact pirated and thieves users have begun reporting receiving the friendly message I included. It was even written about recently on You can read the brief article here, or read my take on it on my Stormy Productions blog here.

Ah, the joys of software development. Never a dull moment, that's for sure!

I wouldn't be surprised if some pirate with a bit of free time on his or her hands will take the time to work around my anti-piracy code. And then, I suppose I'll add a few more counter-measures to the next update of my app, requiring a pirate to spend a bit more time to crack it. All this for something that only costs 99 cents, too.