Protecting Code

Stephen Yagielowicz

It never fails: you come up with great content, great design, and a slick and functional website that is the envy of all who survey it — and immediately, pirates from Tijuana to Timbuktu steal every bit of it they can — and some of them will use your own hard work to become your competitors.

Although you can’t keep someone from copying the look and feel of your website to one extent or another, you don’t need to make it as easy for them as hitting, “save as.”

Although you can’t keep someone from copying the look and feel of your website to one extent or another, you don’t need to make it as easy for them as hitting, “save as.”

To fight these bozos, many of whom are technically limited and thus resort to stealing rather than writing the HTML, CSS, jQuery and other scripting they need for their sites, a webmaster can make use of code obfuscation techniques that eliminate human readability and the ease of the old right-click, from the equation.

One easy tip is to remove commenting from your production code: there’s no good reason to provide thieves with a “how to” breakdown of what’s going on under the hood.

Code compression is another effective method for making it harder for neophytes to steal your scripts, while also reducing their file size and boosting their download speeds — just be sure to preserve un-compressed master copies to ease your own editing needs.

While a variety of solutions exist for protecting graphics, image and video files, such as existing digital rights management (DRM) tools; the protection of HTML, CSS files, scripts and other files, takes specialized software — some examples of which require the installation of a dedicated browser-style viewing platform on the surfer’s computer — serious security for the corporate world, but a tough sell for porn consumers that are wary as to why a site would want to install something to see its content, when other sites don’t.

Other solutions are less intrusive and infinitely more surfer-friendly.

One such application is HTML Guard (www.htmlguard.com), which according to its publisher, allows users to encrypt the source code of their web pages and restrict browser functions in order to prevent unauthorized copying of the site’s contents. All pages retain their original look and feel and can be viewed in any JavaScript-enabled browser without having to deal with any special “viewer software.”

Examining the source code of a test page revealed a jumble of gibberish that would be insurmountable for casual (and not so casual) crackers to render any usable code from.

A free demo is available, or you can buy it for $34.95, making HTML Guard a useful, costeffective solution for basic code and content security.

At the end of the day, if a web browser or other application can read your site’s code, then so can everyone else — whether they understand what they see and can make use of it or not, is the question to focus on for now — with code obfuscation part of the answer.

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