Ability to access source code can be used both for legitimate and malicious intent. For example, security tools are using the ability to decompile Java applets and Flash to “performs static analysis to understand their behaviours” (Telecomworldwire, 2009). Moreover, the ability to disassemble the source code can be used by the software developers for debugging. On the other hand, it can also be used to reverse engineer the source code which directly impact the ability to protect the intellectual property.
One obvious way to try to protect the source code, thus the intellectual property it carries, is to use obfuscation (Gabriel Torok and Bill Leach, 2003)(Peter Haggar, 2001)(Tony Patton, 2008). Regardless of the language used to the develop the application, obfuscation usually means:
- replacement of variable names to non-meaningful character streams
- replacement of constants with expressions
- replacement of decimal values with hexadecimal, octal and binary representation
- addition of dummy functions and loops
- removal of comments
- concatenating all lines in the source code
In a way, the process of obfuscation changes the source code to make it difficult for the “reader” to understand the logic behind it. It (obfuscation) could be seen as “your kid sister encryption” - “cryptography that will stop your kid sister from reading your files” (Bruce Shneier, 1996). Of course, persistent “reader” can invest enough time and resources to reproduce the source code (deobfuscate) by applying obfuscation principals in reverse.
- Telecomworldwire, 2009. 'HP unveils HP SWFScan free web security tool' 2009, Telecomworldwire (M2), Regional Business News, EBSCOhost, viewed 28 October 2011.
- Bruce Schneier, 1996. “Applied Cryptography”. Wiley; 2nd Edition. Preface.
- H.M. Deitel, P.J, Deitel and A.B. Goldber, 2004. “Internet & World Wide Web How to Program”. 3Rd Edition. Pearson Education Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
- Peter Haggar, 2001. “Java bytecode: Understanding bytecode makes you a better programmer” [online]. IBM. Available from: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ibm/library/it-haggar_bytecode/ (accessed: October 28, 2011).
- Tony Patton, 2008. “Protect
[online]. TechRepublic. Available from:
(accessed: October 28, 2011).