DEVELOPMENT OF A MOBILE AGENT FOR PREVENTING SOFTWARE PIRACY ON A NETWORK
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Software piracy has affected the growth and the profitability of the software industry. It causes so much harm to software publishers when their products are duplicated without due authorization and spread across to individuals who are not licensed users or when their products are installed amongst multiple machines beyond the licensed number. Nowadays, we are surrounded by software applications which are used for services like online payments, social networking, games, data management, etc. The profitability of the producers and vendors of these software applications are negatively affected by threats such as piracy, reverse engineering, and tampering. However, these threats are exacerbated when these software are poorly protected. Therefore, it is important to have a thorough threat analysis as well as software protection schemes in order to protect the huge revenues of software companies which increases in proportion with the wide use of software. This protection is not only for operating systems, but also for professional applications (e.g. graphics software) which can also be very expensive.
The illegal use of software is on the increase and with just a few mouse clicks, people can download software product, apply a downloaded patch to it, and start using it without payment. Vendors realized that protecting software against malicious users is a hard problem. The user is in control of his machine: he has physical access to the hardware and he controls the network connectivity (Howard & LeBlanc, 2002). The BSA (2013) explained that software piracy creates unfair competition for legitimate companies, damages brands through distribution of substandard products, and exposes customers to a range of IT risks including malware, security breaches and data loss. It also denies end-users the benefit of necessary customer support, upgrades, technical documentation, trainings and bug fixes. These pirated software end-users of course have no warranty to protect themselves and they are subject to significant fines for copyright infringement.
The software vendors and manufacturers and also the BSA with local laws in different countries have not relented in the quest to completely prevent software piracy. Many websites today are used to fight piracy by including linking information such as “report software piracy”, thereby involving legitimate users of software in the fight. Software piracy is more often practised when digital files are made into one or more copies, thus programmers have usually come together trying to find a way of making digital files uncopyable. Schneier (2011) has said that trying to make digital files uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet. Job (2011) has also argued that there is no good technological solution to a behavioural problem. While so many are still on the fight for piracy prevention, some others are arguing that software piracy prevention has no perfect measure. According to wheeler (2011), a combination of four main factors means that no imperfect copy-protection system can be possibly safe. In the light of his “four major factors”, he said the question shouldn’t be “Why are software still easily pirated?”, but “Why are people still trying to prevent it?”. So many others do believe that piracy can be tackled with a combination of measures. A decision to totally relent on the fight to prevent software piracy is like a decision to cease software production all over the world and its impact will be unimaginable.
1.2 RATIONAL/THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The increase in demand of software products should no doubt increase the revenue of the Software vendors and create more jobs for software developers. The Application of software programs have become very popular that any task has software relating to it (Adu, 2013). But unfortunately, it has been the reverse that software developers lose their jobs and that the profitability of software vendors tends to suffer over the years. Yet, there is very large number of students graduating annually throughout the world from the study of software engineering and other related fields, while so many others are gaining admission to study and so many others having the passion for software engineering and related fields. Software Piracy is a dangerous menace that needs to be combated now in order to secure the future of this population of future software engineers. Software vendors have tried a lot to prevent software piracy through means that are visible to the users. This study of combating software piracy with mobile agent is very necessary because of its verification and authentication processes being hidden from the various users of software during installation.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problems of software piracy are its negative effects on the following areas:
• Funding of continuing research and development efforts
through sales of software
Software developers and vendors have envisioned a future with so many possibilities through creation of various software products. Mathworks (2013) stated their goal to accelerate the pace of discovery, innovation, development, and learning in engineering and science through the software they create. To this end, making substantial and continuing research and development efforts, which are ‘funded’ through the sales of their software products.
• Loss of jobs
Unfortunately today, throughout the world, we do not only have a problem of software piracy reducing this funding of ongoing development efforts, but also a problem that software vendors have not really achieved the desired much in their quest to prevent this dangerous menace which affects their profitability and which also is a threat to jobs of so many software developers.
• Financial losses to software firms and the government
The BSA study concluded that software piracy cost the U.S economy $1.9 billion and resulted in more than 105,000 lost jobs (Jack, 2004). At global level, the global piracy rate hovered at 42% in 2011 while a steady expanding marketplace in the developing world drove the commercial value of software theft to $63.4 billion (BSA, 2011). Apple (2013) also stated that more than $11 billion is lost to piracy every year. Software piracy has also been a discouragement to so many who wishes to invest in the software industry thus affecting the expected alternative software solutions to solve people’s needs in the future. If enough strict software piracy–prevention measures are not put in place, it could lead to a very high increase in software prices in the future because of the need for business sustainability on the side of software vendors.
1.4 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This study is aimed towards achieving the following results:
• Using the migration behaviour of mobile agent codes for software-user identity collection and for software usage count. And also to implement a scenario illustrating such mobile agent code activities.
• Combining an online activation code system with the mobile agent system in a way as to make them a single unit aimed at preventing software piracy through technical means.
• Building a web interface which will act as the data processing element for the combined system.
• Ensuring that an unforeseen circumstance that may arise after the users’ first time installation of software is put into consideration.
• In addition, using data collection procedures to ensure that the study has an outstanding contribution to make towards the fight against software piracy, but first ensuring that data analysed is from a population ‘really informed’ about software piracy.
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESES
Would it be that software users are not educated about software piracy or does it mean it still appeals to them ethically to still engage in software piracy even when they are educated enough about software piracy and its effect on the world economy. Would it not be appropriate for software vendors to work very hard in order to safeguard their products even if it affects the time they should have put in the development of new products or enhancing available ones for a better users’ experience? Most software products initially come with some features with the inclusion of more features gradually over time in the name of release of new versions of the same product. This indeed is more revenue for the software vendors but causes regular budgeting for software costs by users. The following questions could thus arise: Are these frequent new releases strategies for making more money by the vendors, maybe to make up for losses caused due to software piracy? Did these frequent needs for users to pay and upgrade to newer versions lead to or encouraged more piracy? Is it that the users of pirated software are not having in mind the profitability and business sustenance of the vendors who claims to have the needs of their clients in mind? Is there an expected end to software piracy? Finally and more importantly, is technology really needed to combat software piracy and how has technology applied in the past able to fight piracy.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The proposed study has Educational, Technological and Economic significance. It is of educational significance to students, IT instructors and lecturers in IT field who can use the study as instructional reference for self study and tutorials when referring to software, piracy, coding and also to ICT-driven services. It is also of educational significance to researchers in areas of software piracy as a review study. Technologically, it is of significance to software developers who engage in seeking new systems of preventing software piracy through technical means especially means relating to mobile agents or a combination of mobile agents. The study will also be useful technologically and economically to software vendors who has need to identify usage and control installation limits of software as a way of frustrating piracy and preventing financial losses.
1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
One shortcoming of this study is based on the fact that the software installer will encapsulate both the mobile agent and the actual software which altogether forms a single unit that is copied to a CD or uploaded to the vendor’s site, maybe as a single .php file. Only a few professional programmers though can de-encapsulate this unit to separate the component and run the actual software independently, though he will need to do that faster if he knows the algorithm used for the encapsulation. Therefore, this information should never be provided by the vendor as a way of overcoming this shortcoming. Also the amount of time that will be required for this de-encapsulation can discourage the pirate. If the programmer-user eventually succeeds in de-encapsulating the various components, he can spread the actual software to non-programmer users and the spread continues from there. Another limitation is the TUSRUC feature of the mobile agent system which is though designed to make up for unforeseen contingencies on the side of the users. The feature ensures that even if the software is made to be installed on many computers, after the first installation, the software/serial key combination enters a TUSRUC period which must elapse before the software can be installed on the rest of the computers.
1.8 SCOPE/DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is focus on preventing software piracy through technology. This technology is the use of a mobile agent. The study will cover the encapsulation of the actual software with mobile agent codes. It shall also cover the coding and the development of the remote server/web interface. The interaction between the mobile agent codes and a remote server hosted on the site of the vendor during the authentication stage of the software installation will also be covered. TUSRUC algorithm function will also be studied which shows the way the system handles cases of unforeseen contingencies during the “first time” period of using the software product. This study however, does not cover the de-encapsulation process. The actual software to be installed will only serve as test software, its development process or coding will not be covered.
1.9 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF THE TERMS
-Activation Code: Some software needs an activation code to unlock it for use. Without activation code, such software cannot be functional (Bahar Reuben, 2011).
-Algorithm: A step-by-step method of solving a problem or achieving a task.
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