Windows Phone Dev Center now automatically encrypts all apps to prevent piracy

Dev Center

Software piracy is a serious battle, which can also affect our beloved platform developers. Microsoft has taken action by automatically applying encryption to all apps through the newly unveiled Dev Center. According to a detailed post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog, Todd Brix states that all apps (including those already submitted) are automatically encrypted without user input.

We first heard about the possibility of server-side encryption back in November, 2011. From our understanding, Microsoft was waiting until everyone was on Mango to implement that feature and it now looks to have happened. If you recall, at the end of April Microsoft decreed that you had to have Windows Phone 7.5 to get to the Marketplace. Combined with the Dev Center refresh, we think that transition for encryption is now complete.

The software giant has been cracking down on Windows Phone app piracy by making it harder for devices to be unlocked and removing the Marketplace from Zune PC software. This would surely slow down those who desire to steal work and make it freely available, but we're hoping this app encryption will help strengthen the blockade against attacks.

It will be warmly welcomed by developers who have poured not only funds and resources, but time and effort into their projects. This will in-turn benefit consumers with more apps being released through more potential sales carried out and a stronger ROI for content providers. Here's hoping anyway.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog; via: Windows Phone Daily


Reader comments

Windows Phone Dev Center now automatically encrypts all apps to prevent piracy


Piracy can also be a way to balance things out. What is illegal can also be what's fair. I'm not trolling, it's my true thoughts. :-)

Balance things out for who? If someone's work is being stolen I struggle to see how that can be balanced.

...for whom! Digital distribution would not be what it is today if it wasn't for the evolution of piracy. Piracy also keeps financial rape at bay. Piracy is essential aslong as we live in a capitalist society.

Piracy is competition, and thanks to piracy, we the custumers haven't yet been completely screwed. I'm not saying piracy is right, but as long as the world works as it does, it's necessary. Unfortunately!

Piracy is, by definition, theft. The only justification for theft that I think most people would recognize as reasonable is theft of food by a starving person to preserve their own life. Mobile phone games don't rate highly on the list of essentials to sustain life.

In my opinion it can't be compared to stealing. If I steal, I actually add something to my own possession. If my license of any digital media would be something I could sell, then I would consider reconsidering.

while i agree with you on the point that piracy is essential in the way that zero-cost competition and the option to browse an online "repository" of content did made today's market evolve (for one, there's zune pass which in my option kicks any music services' teeth out)... on the other hand piracy is theft; consider that not only physical objects of value can be stolen but you can steal services like electricity, gas, internet connection, broadcast and these are only a few... the developer has the RIGHT to add a price tag to their product, and you have 2 choices: pay the price tag or move along - so while piracy has it's uses there's no way anyone can justify it

ok... seriously? u've added entertainment to your life, that is the possession that you have acquired through pirating media, the only justification that i can see for piracy is when the media can not be obtained in any sort of legal path, by this i mean things such as shows from over seas where they
1. do not broadcast overseas for obvious reasons
2. can not be purchased or watched online through legal media such as Netflix or Hulu or what not
3. they literally tell you to go watch an upload by strangers onto YouTube (hey, what do you want from me...)
these are the only reasons i can't fault people for going the pirate route, the companies were unable to provide a way to acquire media is really the difficult issue that really should be resolved
one other one is KTV stuff, this one I'm guilty of, but when I found out all the KTV stores in Vancouver are all Pirated, that's when I went "screw this..." If only they provided a way for me to actually buy these video... if only...
other than those reasons, I'm a Dev myself, if we provide ways for you to obtain our work you should follow it, our Services are NOT free, we have to feed our families too you know
(I bought all my other medias that can be bought legally)

Piracy is not competition. Just as selling stolen goods can't be called competing with legallly working reseller. Piracy is fraud and theft, and justifying it is just wrong. And saying that piracy is competition is just flat out hideous.

I agree for things like marijuana, only one person (or group) can say what is fair use of their product, the creator.

I can't write the word I want to write, so I will say you are entitled to your own opinion, and I completely disagree

Man you step square into a pile of sh_ _ with that one.
I totally agree with you though. I just didn't have the testicular fortitude to say it. As great as Windows phones are this is why it'll never catch Android or ISO.

If you were right then analysts wouldn't be saying that it's going to be second place by 2015. It's already over the iPhone in china. So you're wrong.

If you think 4% market share is great you're wrong. Not to mention a lot of users (the 4%) are pissed about getting 7.8 and not 8. I don't mind personally but a lot will so Microsoft will actually have to start over again.

My thought is that I would like to have it all. Unlike you I recognize that other people need a living and gladly pay for it. However, I'm mot perfect and won't pay $800 for MS Office, neither will or can I pay $1500 for Photoshop. If I did it to make money though, then I would pay... So I guess I'm not perfect:) $30 for the Garmin app is stupid and its not for Norway anyway. I wish all developers used TRY, since I dislike shelling out $3 for crap:)

Use Openoffice or Paint.Net.
There are always legal open source applications, for everithing. Piracy, its simply illegal, it is the law.

What's odd is " Flash for WP " has been in the top 20 apps since its release. 1,200 reviews, average is 4 stars. The only reason it's not 5 star is because the price is $4.99 (cheap scapes). All this app does is show pirated stuff. I have it and highly recommend it. Now if I could've just figured out how to pirate the pirate app :)
Sorry but with today's tech people are gonna do this. Is it stealing? A lot say yes a few say no since it's intellectual. All this intellectual bs is going on with OEM 's is slowing cell tech. Now unfortunately it's gonna slow the BEST OS out. This is sad :(

I'm less inclined to be on someone's case if they acquire software from a big mega corporation. I'm looking at you adobe. ;)

Still its theft but I think the impact is more on small dev shops and most definitely for the indie dev just trying to get something unique out there. And don't think for a minute that big companies aren't guilty of that sorta stuff.

So protect the little guys. I like it. Let the big dogs fend for themselves. :)

I'm sure some pirate free apps just to bypass country restrictions . Don't know if fair up to everyone's opinion

This is not a valid reason at all (except fir thieves) !!!
Anyway the wp8 store will be available to 191 countries (I don't remember the exact number) so shut up please.

LOL piracy.
Microsoft wishes there was piracy for WP, there is no piracy on Windows Phone cause no one cares.
With all the piracy fears, you cannot even backup the installation files of your apps so you can install them later, offline, like you can with the iPhone, all the apps that you install are downloaded as .ipa files into your iTunes folder, and you can install them later, any time you want.
Piracy sells, and it has sold a ton of iPhones.

And monitoring your app usage with an analytic component or a custom web service. If AppHub reports 20.000 downloads, and you see 300.000 different unique phones using your app, you have been pirated.

Uh oh, folks...It's Cod3rror!  Cod3rror is infamously known for trolling Nokia blogs, disparaging Symbian and Nokia, and now it seems Cod3rror has moseyed on over to a Windows Phone site for more of the same.
Note to Cod3rror:  Unlike MNB, if trolling is detected by editors, you will be banned!

I never get banned from anywhere, because while my opinions may not be popular they are still very valid and no one so far has been able to intelligently dispute it.
I don't go to a website and just say "WP sucks and Apple rocks" and be done with it, that is trolling, what I do is not trolling.
WP is more limited and restricted than iOS, it has less features and functionality than iOS, it has worse UI than iOS.
Really the only reason somebody would go with WP is because they hate Apple.

"Really the only reason somebody would go with WP is because they hate Apple."
this and you say you are not trolling?
"worse UI than iOS"
and this and you say you are not trolling?
u sir have issues...

Troll attempts to troll.

Troll fails at trolling due to intelligent readers.

Troll counts this as a success due to lack of life.

Troll moves onto next victim.

Everyone pity the troll.

MS is addressing a problem NOW before it becomes one later. I have no doubt WP will do will in the long run. MS has bungled a few things prior to this but this one is solid. This next year should be nice. New OS, mobile OS, hardware galore and a new Xbox likely next year. Its good to be in the MS camp.

Unapologetic Fanboy :D

I can reinstall all my apps up to 3 devices every time I want, yes I need an internet connection, but if you buy a smartphone its acceptable to use the internet sometime.
I feel no need to an offline/backup App installation feature.
'Ipa' sounds like old setup.exe installers :)

You see, WP is more locked down than iOS. Then people claim Apple is walled garden, WP is a straight up prison.
If Microsoft decides to take down an app you're done! What if the new version releases, you don't like it and you want to go back to the old one, what are you going to do? Nothing that's right.
And YES, requiring internet connection to install apps is definitely a weakness.

Ms can revoke an app, but only for super valid reasons (ie copyright infringements), they cant take down an app as they wish, they have a contract with developers.
When an app "disappears" from the market it was done by the developer. Developers have a control panel that permits to hide or remove a published app. Don't know what happens to users that bought the app, uninstall it, and then want to reinstall it.
I think Ms will refund the user, should be a good question to ask (Rich ? :)

Microsoft de-listed a game by the name of Star Wars Cantina due to an expired license. As a customer, I don't care if the license expired, I paid money for the app and should have uninterrupted access to it. Had I pirated it, this problem would not affect me.

I can't reinstall my star wars games that I paid for. Please tell me how. I have a internet connection / Zune and the reinstaller app. I can't find them.

I did and was told no. By the way I HATE THAT MS KILLED PHONE SUPPORT. Now you have to email them and they will call you.

I was able to see my apps cracked and available on asian sites just the day after publication. This was REALLY irritating for a developer who spends time on his work.
There are some anti piracy techniques right now, but server side encryption is the definitive solution.

They weren't cracked, they were freely available as an XAP file from the Microsoft site.  At least this should fix that.

THEY WERE, xap was exploited and certificate was altered.
I tried to deploy the xap to an unlocked lg and it worked as full licensed, translated into Chinese too !!! It seems that cracking a xap is so simple that it can be done automatically by a web service polling the marketplace for new apps...
I hope this shame now is fixed.

But luckily very few people have a fully unlocked phone.. Even if I wanted to use piracy apps there is no custom rom available for my Dell. And paying for developer unlocking your phone is not what pirates would do..

Our game ARMED! has shown up in quite a few file sharing sites over the last 8 months.

While piracy on WP7 is no where near as bad as Android... i'm glad Microsoft is finally doing something about this issue.

- Tom

A further note... as developers we should not try to restrict the markets our games/apps appear in. Even an un-localized app is better than no app at all.

Yea there are some cases like Brazil and South Korea that make it more difficult, but in general shipping only to the US marketplace hurts users.

- Tom

Tom, search the web for 'protect WP piracy', you will find a simple way to prevent tampering your app with just a few lines of code. And it works ;)

I looked at it.

I couldn't see why you couldn't simply open the XAP and add a dummy file to get past it.

It might throw off a few people, but it is the serial pirates that then share their XAPs with 100s of others that would figure this out and work around it.

- Tom

Like I said... I looked at it.

I don't see anything that couldn't be worked around by a simple zip tool.

EDIT: Oh... I get it now... you wrote this code, so you're promoting it.

First of all... I love it when developers participate on forums like this. I'm located in Norway, but use an American ID, so that I get all the goodies too:) I've tried both setups and the Norwegian sucks. So please distribute to all marketplaces:)

I'd just like to say thank you to all the app developers who actually leave a response on this forum/app/website/whatever you want to call it. THANK YOU, that is all. And thank you for making your apps everyone who leafy a comment on here who is a developer (so far) I've installed all of your apps. So thank you again. :)

This is a great move to combat piracy. :) I am sure this will encourage developers to make more apps for the WP platform, but I can see how a section of fans will be pissed off by this decision of Microsoft's. Not that I support them anyway.

Windows Phone can't catch up because android is in every shape or form and the iPhone is set out to be a standard while the s3 is running circles around it. Hopefully with wp8 we see the price in every market free to hundreds for more ground to cover

Hey guys. I can definetely tell you that piracy is very real on the Windows Phone platform. The more popular the game/app, the more piracy it has, even if the platform as a whole only has 3-4% marketshare. MonsterUp Adventures, my latest game, has become super popular in the platform category, constantly being in the top 3 on almost all marketplaces and also #1 in a couple of them. I can see by comparing the official statistics with my own that there are days where the paid version of the game has been downloaded more than 100 times, while officially I have 2-3 sales. You can easily understand that this is a huge blow for me.
I love making games for Windows Phone, I have 3 on the market already and I am always working on something new, but the thing is that I am not currently supporting myself and my family by doing so. This is an extra for me, but if it was my main thing I might reconsider developing for Windows Phone, since it's (until now at least) the second easiest platform to pirate apps (after Android of course). Yes, I can give everything away for free (like they do on the Android platform) and try to monetize on adds, but the relatively low users numbers means that would not work very well (at least one of my games is ad-supported and has been since last year, so I know). Yes, I could follow a freemium model with in-app-purchases, but these are not officially supported in the Windows Phone 7 platform (they will be supported on Windows Phone 8 but they will not be compatible with current handsets - so we are a long way from having a sustainable userbase for this model). 
I am sometimes for piracy, but in certain cases only. When I've bought a version of a movie on DVD, I feel that I am entitled to download the same version to have as a digital file on my PC, especially when my current laptop does not have a DVD drive. When I go to a couple of concerts of a certain band, I don't feel too bad if I pirate 1-2 albums of their, especially since I know that the music industry gets a much higher cut from the albums sales profits than the artists themselves. But please keep in mind that pirating a blockbuster movie does not really hurt many people, since the profits are in the millions anyway, and a couple thousand dollars would not make a huge different. Pirating an indie game might make all the difference in the world though, since it could mean forcing a developer to stop developing for the platform, hurting the platform itself.
Windows Phone is relatively young, and it needs support. EA is just fooling around when they develop stuff for WP, and they automatically get Live status anyway. The small developers like myself struggle everyday to make a couple of sales. For me, I hope the encryption system works and works well, so that we finally have a change to monetize our efforts. I love the platfor and it would be a pity for it to be wrecked by people who feel they cannot afford $0.99 for a good game.

I tried this January 2011, when I launched the original MonsterUp. I had huge problems with legitimate players complaining their purchased apps were only trial versions. I may have done something wrong myself at the time, but I decided repupation was more important, especially since they market was close to nothing then. I would also love for an official method to work (like the encryption scheme described in the article) and not some hack that may or may not work tomorrow.

I think so. If u like to share your modified code via email, I can help you solving the issue. As we used that anti piracy strings (that worked perfectly with our apps), our revenues have grown to the point that we now pay one of our employees with that money :)

Crunchyroll is US, budget7 is US, etc. There are so many free apps that are not available in other countries' market. Take example crunchyroll. We can subscribe using the website from many countries, but the mobile apps only available in selected countries.. Should we go Android to have the same apps ?

From what I have seen, Msft is still US centric or geocentric (North America). Many apps that they claim are good in making platform parity with other platform are only available in few countries..

I hope Nokia has strong say in this. All I see in developing for WP7 promotion or record breaking contest in my country is spurred by Nokia. Nokia please give a gentle pat on Msft head or if still not working, give a big kick to the teeth.

Msft only cares for record 100,000 whatever now without adhering to disparity of experience. Too many excuses. If Nokia WP8 does not have a lot of Nokia's suggestions, I am out. I hate being beta-tested by Msft.

Oh while I am on this, let me add. WHERE IS THE APP SUBSECTIONS ? Too generic categories. Please narrow it. They bother adding encryption, but forget discoverability. Hahaha

Its not Ms, its up to the developer to choose exactly what coutries to make his app available to...
Its easy to select all countries ;)

It's not that simple. Developers don't get their apps on many marketplace because they don't bother supporting it. They don't understand the language, geographical adaptation, or like many 1.0.0 version apps they just make and leave it with existing configuration, the limited original marketplaces. In Android, you can just download the .apk and activate it. No need for encryption. Much simpler. 2 choices; marketplace and sef-install. So, it's a not self-inflicted limitation by design.
Customers can go to developers' website to purchase and customers who can do that are obliged to understand TOC, procedures, etc, but with marketplace they are forced to provide support to the local market with many different conditions. Not that encouraging.
EXAMPLE : I really want Romance of Three Kingdoms mobile by KOEI TECMO. They usually (if) publish in Japanese first. So, if they publish, it will be only in Japan and others can't access it by design even though KOEI TECMO will more than be happy to sell it if potential customers know Japanese and limited support it has outside Japan and North America.
It is not that simple.

There are lots of people multilingual people around the world, and apps usually contain so limited amounts of text that any vocabulary gaps usually can be quickly looked up by a non-native user. Geographic matters are a different thing, but while I wouldn't normally need an app for public transportation in Quebec, it would be annoying if I should go there and be unable to download it because my phone isn't registered in Canada. I think marketplace filters where users can select what languages and so on they want to see.

Hi All, The statement made by the Windows Team Blog is not yet true!!
Q: My app appears to be encrypted, is that true?
A: Yes. All existing apps in the Marketplace catalog, and all new app submissions and updates are automatically encrypted. You don’t need to do anything to make this change for existing apps.
When are they going to apply this to existing apps in the marketplace? It reads like they've already automatically encrypted all existing apps in the marketplace. Well I can safely say this isn't true, as I did a test, using one of the many online tools for ripping a .XAP from the marketplace, and they still work ok. So as far as I can tell, the existing marketplace apps are NOT encrupted, so we're not safe from the pirate yet. In my own app that is coming out shortly, I've employed the anti-xap hacking measures as employed by some other app developers. If and when Microsoft eventually start encrypting the xap's, then I might consider removing my anti-hacking code

Hello Glen, have you tried to send a support ticket to AppHub about the test you have just done? Should be interesting to hear what they say, I was about to remove anti hack codes me too !! Thank you for sharing your experience!!!!

I would also be nice is this means I don't have to obfuscate my code anymore - you could basically open a XAP file and read the full source code before. You could run it through obfuscation to make it harder to follow, but it's still there. The process can also can introduce crashes, and makes it harder to deal with error reports.

This is another very interesting question to ask to Ms...
All assemblies on a xap are encrypted, or only the manifest file? In the latter case, obfuscation is still necessary...

The best way to combat piracy is probably to make it rewarding to buy. I joined Steam to download a demo two years ago. Since then my ratio of pirated PC games has gone from maybe 80% all the way down to 0%. I have even bought several games I've finished before. I guess the tricky bit is to find the equivalent added value for things that aren't games. Maybe cloud services can help on that front.