A product key, also known as a software key, is a specific software-based key for a computer program. It certifies that the copy of the program is original.
Product keys consist of a series of numbers and/or letters. This sequence is typically entered by the user during the installation of computer software, and is then passed to a verification function in the program. This function manipulates the key sequence according to a mathematical algorithm and attempts to match the results to a set of valid solutions.
Standard key generation, where product keys are generated mathematically, is not completely effective in stopping copyright infringement of software, as these keys can be distributed. In addition, with improved communication from the rise of the Internet, more sophisticated attacks on keys such as cracks (removing the need for a key) and product key generators have become common.
Because of this, software publishers use additional product activation methods to verify that keys are both valid and uncompromised. One method assigns a product key based on a unique feature of the purchaser's computer hardware, which cannot be as easily duplicated since it depends on the user's hardware. Another method involves requiring one-time or periodical validation of the product key with an internet server (for games with an online component, this is done whenever the user signs in). The server can deactivate unmodified client software presenting invalid or compromised keys. Modified clients may bypass these checks,but the server can still deny those clients information or communication.
Some of the most effective product key protections are controversial due to inconvenience, strict enforcement, harsh penalties and, in some cases, false positives. Some product keys use uncompromising digital procedures to enforce the license agreement.
Product keys are somewhat inconvenient for end users. Not only do they need to be entered whenever a program is installed, but the user must also be sure not to lose them. Loss of a product key usually means the software is useless once uninstalled, unless, prior to uninstallation, a key recovery application is used (although not all programs support this).
Product keys also present new ways for distribution to go wrong. If a product is shipped with missing or invalid keys, then the product itself is useless. For example, all copies of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow originally shipped to Australia without product keys.
There are many cases of permanent bans enforced by companies detecting usage violations. It is common for an online system to immediately blacklist an account caught running cracks or, in some cases, cheats. This results in a permanent ban. Players who wish to continue use of the software must repurchase it. This has inevitably led to criticism over the motivations of enforcing permanent bans.[ citation needed ]
Particularly controversial is the situation which arises when multiple products' keys are bound together. If products have dependencies on other products (as is the case with expansion packs), it is common for companies to ban all bound products. For example, if a fake key is used with an expansion pack, the server may ban legitimate keys from the original game. Similarly, with Valve's Steam service, all products the user has purchased are bound into the one account. If this account is banned, the user will lose access to every product associated with the same account
This "multi-ban" is highly controversial, since it bans users from products which they have legitimately purchased and used.[ citation needed ]
Bans are enforced by servers immediately upon detection of cracks or cheats, usually without human intervention. Sometimes, legitimate users are wrongly deemed in violation of the license, and banned. In large cases of false positives, they are sometimes corrected (as happened in World of Warcraft . [ citation needed ]) However, individual cases may not be given any attention.
A common cause of false positives (as with the World of Warcraft case above) is users of unsupported platforms. For example, users of Linux can run Windows applications through compatibility layers such as Wine and Cedega. This software combination sometimes triggers the game's server anti-cheating software, resulting in a ban due to Wine or Cedega being a Windows API compatibility layer for Linux, so it is considered third-party (cheating) software by the game's server. [ citation needed ]
In computer networking, a thin client is a simple (low-performance) computer that has been optimized for establishing a remote connection with a server-based computing environment. The server does most of the work, which can include launching software programs, performing calculations, and storing data. This contrasts with a fat client or a conventional personal computer; the former is also intended for working in a client–server model but has significant local processing power, while the latter aims to perform its function mostly locally.
A key generator (key-gen) is a computer program that generates a product licensing key, such as a serial number, necessary to activate for use of a software application. Keygens may be legitimately distributed by software manufacturers for licensing software in commercial environments where software has been licensed in bulk for an entire site or enterprise, or they may be distributed illegitimately in circumstances of copyright infringement or software piracy. Illegitimate key generators are typically distributed by software crackers in the warez scene and demoscene. These keygens often play "Keygen music", which may include the genres dubstep or chiptunes in the background and have artistic user interfaces.
Copy protection, also known as content protection, copy prevention and copy restriction, describes measures to enforce copyright by preventing the reproduction of software, films, music, and other media.
A software protection dongle is an electronic copy protection and content protection device. When connected to a computer or other electronics, they unlock software functionality or decode content. The hardware key is programmed with a product key or other cryptographic protection mechanism and functions via an electrical connector to an external bus of the computer or appliance.
World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) released in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. Set in the Warcraft fantasy universe, World of Warcraft takes place within the world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events of the previous game in the series, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The game was announced in 2001, and was released for the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise on November 23, 2004. Since launch, World of Warcraft has had eight major expansion packs: The Burning Crusade (2007), Wrath of the Lich King (2008), Cataclysm (2010), Mists of Pandaria (2012), Warlords of Draenor (2014), Legion (2016), Battle for Azeroth (2018), and Shadowlands (2020).
Application software is computing software designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the computer itself, typically to be used by end-users. Examples of an application include a word processor, a spreadsheet program, an accounting application, a web browser, an email client, a media player, a console game, or a photo editor. The collective noun application software refers to all applications collectively. The other principal classifications of software are system software, relating to the operation of the computer, and utility software ("utilities").
PunkBuster is a computer program that is designed to detect software used for cheating in online games. It does this by scanning the memory contents of the local machine. A computer identified as using cheats may be banned from connecting to protected servers. The aim of the program is to isolate cheaters and prevent them from disrupting legitimate games. PunkBuster is developed and published by Even Balance, Inc.
Cheating in online games is defined as the action of pretending to comply with the rules of the game, while secretly subverting them to gain an unfair advantage over an opponent. Depending on the game, different activities constitute cheating and it is either a matter of game policy or consensus opinion as to whether a particular activity is considered to be cheating.
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TeamSpeak (TS) is a proprietary voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) application for audio communication between users on a chat channel, much like a telephone conference call. Users typically use headphones with a microphone. The client software connects to a TeamSpeak server of the user's choice, from which the user may join chat channels.
Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) is an anti-cheat software product developed by Valve as a component of the Steam platform, first released with Counter-Strike in 2002.
Wireless security is the prevention of unauthorized access or damage to computers or data using wireless networks, which include Wi-Fi networks. The most common type is Wi-Fi security, which includes Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). WEP is a notoriously weak security standard: the password it uses can often be cracked in a few minutes with a basic laptop computer and widely available software tools. WEP is an old IEEE 802.11 standard from 1997, which was superseded in 2003 by WPA, or Wi-Fi Protected Access. WPA was a quick alternative to improve security over WEP. The current standard is WPA2; some hardware cannot support WPA2 without firmware upgrade or replacement. WPA2 uses an encryption device that encrypts the network with a 256-bit key; the longer key length improves security over WEP. Enterprises often enforce security using a certificate-based system to authenticate the connecting device, following the standard 802.11X.
In software licensing, a volume licensing is the practice of selling a license authorizing one computer program to be used on a large number of computers or by a large number of users. Customers of such licensing schemes are typically business, governmental or educational institutions, with prices for volume licensing varying depending on the type, quantity and applicable subscription-term. For example, Microsoft software available through volume-licensing programs includes Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.
A client access license (CAL) is a commercial software license that allows client computers to use server software services. Most commercial desktop apps are licensed so that payment is required for each installation, but some server products can be licensed so that payment is required for each device or user that accesses the service provided by the software. For example, an instance of Windows Server 2016 for which ten User CALs are purchased allows 10 distinct users to access the server.
MAC spoofing is a technique for changing a factory-assigned Media Access Control (MAC) address of a network interface on a networked device. The MAC address that is hard-coded on a network interface controller (NIC) cannot be changed. However, many drivers allow the MAC address to be changed. Additionally, there are tools which can make an operating system believe that the NIC has the MAC address of a user's choosing. The process of masking a MAC address is known as MAC spoofing. Essentially, MAC spoofing entails changing a computer's identity, for any reason, and it is relatively easy.
Network Access Control (NAC) is an approach to computer security that attempts to unify endpoint security technology, user or system authentication and network security enforcement.
Geobytes is a global company specializing in geolocation and anti-spam software. Geobytes was incorporated in the State of Delaware, USA in 1999 making it one of the oldest companies in the online geolocation industry.
Remote Desktop Services (RDS), known as Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008 and earlier, is one of the components of Microsoft Windows that allow a user to take control of a remote computer or virtual machine over a network connection. RDS is Microsoft's implementation of thin client architecture, where Windows software, and the entire desktop of the computer running RDS, are made accessible to any remote client machine that supports Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). User interfaces are displayed from the server onto the client system and input from the client system is transmitted to the server - where software execution takes place. This is in contrast to application streaming systems, like Microsoft App-V, in which computer programs are streamed to the client on-demand and executed on the client machine.
Battle.net is an Internet-based online game, social networking service, digital distribution, and digital rights management platform developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The service was launched on December 31, 1996, followed a few days later with the release of Blizzard's action-role-playing video game Diablo on January 3, 1997. Battle.net was officially renamed to "Blizzard Battle.net" in August 2017.