By Tu Le
Today everyone understands the benefits of cloud computing—elasticity, availability, economical, flexibility—but one of the not so well known benefits of cloud computing is security and its ability to curb software piracy. Around the world, there are smart people devoted to cracking software. Some do it for the intellectual challenge and others want to earn a living by selling pirated copies of software. Software protection has evolved over the years. Initially, many producers relied on proprietary hardware (dongles) to protect their intellectual property and then later relied on software-enforced licensing with an activation process. A common challenge with both these methods involves routinely performing an integrity check of the application against reverse engineering.
With cloud computing, not only does application deployment become easier, it also becomes one of the most effective tools for combatting global software piracy—new BSA report calculates the commercial value of unlicensed installations at $62.7B. Game producers are always at the bleeding edge when it comes to combating piracy. For example, Microsoft with Xbox One, Sony with PS4, Valve with Steam and Blizzard with Battle.net are forcing gamers to constantly authenticate before authorizing access to game titles. Similarly, this trend is creeping into many on-premises applications, most noticeably Microsoft Office 2013, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Microsoft Windows 8. All these products routinely validate the running copy of the application by calling home to authenticate the user and/or device and to also re-arm the application (e.g. allow it to run for another 30 days).
Pirated software is a global problem and while hardware dongles and software activations are effective measures to minimize the risk of piracy, one of the greatest countermeasures to significantly reduce software piracy is by taking advantage of cloud-based software licensing to enforce and secure intellectual property rights.