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Startup Promises to Slow Software Tampering

Metaforic says its anti-hacking tools aren't invulnerable, but definitely will make software exploits less fun

Experts have estimated that, even among casual software developers, there is a 92 percent rate of piracy. Nintendo alone claimed losses of $900 million to software pirates in 2007.

Clearly, today's anti-piracy and anti-hacking tools aren't working too well.

Last week, a startup company, Metaforic, announced plans to take on the pirates. The founders of the Glasgow, Scotland company -- all veterans of software development companies -- say they've had enough.

"I don't think [piracy] can ever really be stopped, but we can make it harder," says Andrew McLennan, the company's CEO. "An application that's protected by our anti-hacking tools can still be hacked -- but it might take the hacker 15 months, 18 months to do it. We don't claim to be invulnerable -- we just want to make it so boring for the hacker that they'll be discouraged."

McLennan and his co-founder and CTO, Neil Stewart, describe the Metafortress anti-hack product as a sophisticated "checking system" that makes it difficult for hackers to strip the wrapper off an application and analyze the code underneath. The two declined to explain the technology in detail, preferring not to give hackers any hints as to how it works.

There are many tools on the market that purport to prevent piracy and hacking, but they tend to be complex and time-consuming to implement, McLennan says. "Most of them take two to three weeks, if not longer. With us, you can be up and running in 40 minutes."

Some software developers also are reluctant to implement such tools because of their impact on performance. But Metaforic, which is built on ITI Techmedia's technology platform, operates at a rate that's 20 to 100 times faster than its counterparts, Stewart says.

In the near term, Metaforic is targeting its efforts toward commercial software companies, as opposed to enterprise software developers. The company is not disclosing the cost of Metafortress. Asked if it was expensive, Stewart quips, "Oh my, yes. We're not cheap, but we're very, very good."

In the fall, however, the company plans to make another announcement that could bring the technology to the enterprise market. "We know what the software development process is like," McLennan says. "I can definitively say we're going to have something to offer for the enterprise as well."

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