Use an Illegal Copy of This and it Erases All of Your Data

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The next time you are tempted to borrow someone’s copy of their favourite software, take note: software developers, sick of having their software pirated, are starting to boobytrap it.

That’s right. In an interesting twist, it is being reported that Anton Tomov, author of, among other things, Pocket Mechanic for the Windows Mobile platform, has rigged the latest update to Windows Pocket Mechanic to wipe the entire device on which it resides if upon execution it detects that the version is not legally registered (“Yawn..good morning…am I legal? Great Beard of Zeus! No! I’m not legally registered…delete delete delete!!”)


“Ha ha!” you say, but I always back my entire device up to my SD or CF card.

Rumour has it that on at least one occasion it has been known to wipe the SD card too.

Ouch.

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Now, Aunty uses the Windows Mobile platform, and even has a (legal, thank you very much) copy of Pocket Mechanic. But the registered version is on Aunty’s old device, which she hasn’t touched in ages. What if Aunty installs the update on her new device, powers it on to type in the license number from the old device, and…bzzzzt! Aunty’s going to be plenty ticked off, that’s what.

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25 thoughts on “Use an Illegal Copy of This and it Erases All of Your Data

  1. now now, take it easy everyone… if indeed the Pocket Mech author has eally done this, then he is in violation of federal law, and will soon be singing the jailhouse blues for along time to come. Not to mention any civil suites that may also be brought against him/his company. I feel quite sure the FBI is already on it,and if not, they will be soon.

  2. I think that really sucks. I run three systems all of which contain pirated software two have a pirated OS. Maybe if these companies would charge a resonable price or if we could count on them having support when we buy their programs they would be having these problems

  3. Joe asks: “It is being reported”? by whom??

    http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3232
    http://www.aximsite.com/boards/showthread.php?t=67787

    Kissy, kissy,

    Aunty Spam

  4. “it is being reported” ? by whom?? this sounds like a “typical” hoax to me..think about it.. any time i see quotes from an unknown source, about an outrageous claim i question it..i just read this story, received it in Lockergnome newsletter..very disappointed..before it is passed around I’d be sure of the facts..don’t believe everything you read in Lockergnome or here.IMHO

  5. Not only will I refrain from participating in this authors software. But I will advertise fluently his misdoings via multiple media formats. This vigilante just bought a hoard of negative advertising, which will include info on “Pocket Mechanic” suits, and how to create the dilemma so -you to!- can jump on the bandwagon with a class act. suit. :D

    Mmmmm,
    Congratulations Anton Tomov, aren’t you the self righteous hero?

    Natzi-Elitist-Bigot, You just made your company Millions in losses!
    Pack your bags, Your on your way to Unemployment Land! where nothing is shiny and new, and Pirated-software is ALL you’ll be able to afford! HaaHaaa!

  6. I will never put such a program on my machine, my harddrives contain data worth hundreds of times what any program is worth one mistake by the program and I could loose years of work. Maybe I will buy the program put it on a machine that has data that is worth something and sue that authors a$$.

  7. Well if you read this post:

    It seems that even registered users will encounter Pocket Mechanic to hard-reset their PPCs.

    Quote from the post:
    Well it hard resetted my ipaq a few times when doing that particular version upgrade and I thought it was some software conflict…until I wrote to the developer and he later sent me a new registration code.

    Well, it is perfectly alright to curb software privacy but with such extreme measure (note that as an existing customer, I received no warning notice nor found such warning on the download website).

  8. Well if you read this post:

    It seems that even registered users will encounter Pocket Mechanic to hard-reset their PPCs.

    Quote from the post:
    Well it hard resetted my ipaq a few times when doing that particular version upgrade and I thought it was some software conflict…until I wrote to the developer and he later sent me a new registration code.

    Well, it is perfectly alright to curb software privacy but with such extreme measure (note that as an existing customer, I received no warning notice nor found such warning on the download website).

  9. This has been done in the past and the author of the program wound up in court and got sued by the government, plus some unhappy people. This is considered a viral activity and maliciously wiping out someones data is illegal even if it was pirated. In other words, it’s illegal to be a vigilante, leave it up to the law instead. Computers being computers, I can foresee people with legal copies getting their data wiped because of some software that is incompatible, or the system/program half way crashes making the software believe that there is a pirated copy installed. Not to mention there could be registry errors that may cause this program to act.
    Either way, this guy is a lawsuit waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of when…..

  10. Zone Alarm has been booby trapped for years-if you try to register w/ an invalid e-mail addy, or register or update a pirate copy, ZA will scramble your winsock file- fortunately you can easily fix it by running a winsock repair utility(you’ll need to already have it on board because you can’t access the internet w/o winsock)

  11. Absolutely wrong! As stated, you can kill your own program if it isn’t legit, but the rest of my system is MY data. I’ve been working hard to master Linux…and loving it! Open Source just feels sooo much better to use, and manipulate if I wish. It appears millions of others feel the same way as I do, so in another few years, Tomov can join the ranks of GPL users, or start flipping burgers!

  12. If the ‘self-destruct’ code is actually there, how long until someone obtains a license to Pocket Mechanic and then wipes their system and blames it on the program’s self-destruct with the intent of suing for their loss. Might be worth buying a PDA.

  13. If I tried some software before I purchased it, and it wiped my harddrive, I would seek out the person who did it and neutralize him.

  14. Please pass on to use all of this gentlemens software so I can avoid his work. I have had glitches in install before and i dont want any of his software on my machine. By the way I do not have any illegal software on my machine even though I have access to it. Old fashion I guess

  15. I had a perfectly legal program, which, after using a register cleaning software, decided if was no registered. I unistalled it, reinstalled and, voilá, did not accept the register code. I tried to communicate with the author, and, voilá, his url no more exists. So I got a valid patch to crack it from a perfeclty illegal russian crack page… I’ll never install a program like Pcket Mechanic

  16. I am a programmer, so I know that any code in a running program can be run due to a bug, random system glitch, or whatever. If Pocket Mechanic contains the code you say, I say, delete it immediately before you lose the rest of your system. There’s no arguing with a program. If it refuses to run because it suddenly decides it is not registered, that’s bad enough: but if it destroys your system, there’s no going back.

  17. Tomov should check with his attorney. Anyone who puts a boobytrap in software should consider the following true story. Back in the 1970’s I was in charge of development for a major dbms vendor. We had a boobytrap that simply denied updating to an expired (Yes, we leased software back then) or bootlegged version. Access to the data was not inhibited. This was common practice. One of our major competitors was sued for a very substantial sum by a unhappy customer. It seems that the ‘customer’ had missed several months of lease payments and lost access to their data due to a ‘time bomb’ in the code. Expert witnesses (moi included) testifed to the fact that this was standard industry practice. Our competitor lost the case because of the issue of ownership of the data. The basis of this decision was that the ‘customer’ had been deprived of the use of their property, the data, without due process. Before creating our trap we had checked with our corporate counsel and were advised to avoid damaging the customers data in ANY fashion and that such action could result in civil and even possibly even criminal penalties.

  18. This does seem a little extreme, especially with the possibilities of false positives. I’d be interested in the legality of such a tactic…

  19. Well, sounds like another candidate for the software “Black List” (legal or otherwise). Isn’t that considered a “VIRUS” by any standard? He must be taking lessons from Micros***!

  20. I think what the company is doing is more illegal that the person using the pirated software and they will be sued many times over. It may be illegal to use a pirated copy of their software, but the legal remedy is the courtroom. They have no legal right to destroy your equipment. That would be more illegal than what the pirate is doing.

  21. You have convinced me to never use Pocket Mechanic. Thanks a bunch. If it just uninstalled itself, well and good but to remove other software will just get him a law suit he really doesn’t want cause he can’t cover all the bases as you pointed out.

  22. I can’t see how that would be any more legal than creating a virus that does the same thing? Isn’t it illegal to create malicious software that destroys someone’s computer? I can see having the pirated program self-destruct, but to touch data on the system that is not remotely related to the pirated software sure sounds like a surefire way to be considered just as bad as a virus, and not quite legal.

    Of course, I am not a lawyer or anything, but my understanding of things was that viruses were illegal because they carry the potential to replicate and/or destroy data on someone’s computer without their permission.
    -=kt=-

  23. This is a bunch of crap. Messing up something that a person owns is trouble nomatter what they do with it in their own home. People will no doubt stop buying any software from companies that practice this and put themselves right out of business.

  24. Anyone who tries to use a legal update on an illegal copy of a program really isn’t thinking the situation through very thoroughly. With that being said, if this fellow is fragging his software liek that, then he is no better than anyne else who writes a virus that plays havoc with your computer. I can understand it if he writes the update in such a way that it wipes HIS PROGRAM ONLY from your computer, but to do anythign else makes him just a common, garden variety virus writer.

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