Obfuscation is the process of modifying executable code so that it cannot be understood, interpreted, or executed. The source code is obfuscated, rendering it incoherent and hard for a third party to comprehend, much less execute. Code obfuscation does not affect the intended output of the code or the user interface of the program. It is only a preventative measure to make the code useless for any possible hacker who may get access to an application’s executable code.
Why is Code Obfuscation Necessary?
Code obfuscation is especially important for open-source programs, which provide a significant disadvantage in terms of code’s capacity to be hacked for personal benefit. By making it difficult to reverse engineer an application, developers protect their product’s intellectual property against security risks, unwanted access, and the discovery of application flaws. Depending on the sort of obfuscation method utilized, this procedure inhibits harmful access to source code and guarantees varying degrees of code protection. As the decompiled code is made unreadable by obfuscation, the time, cost, and resource factors weigh heavily in favor of discarding the code.
List of advantages:
1) Preventing unwanted access and piracy:
By concealing or disguising the source code, it becomes more difficult for would-be pirates to “crack” the software and use it without obtaining a license, particularly if they cannot examine the source code at all. In addition, since the majority of real consumers are unwilling to expend more effort to crack open an application, even if they have full access credentials, only those who truly want it will continue with this procedure, resulting in increased sales.
2) Beneficial to the brand:
Companies are concerned about their reputation, particularly in a market where everything is essentially replicated. A visible code makes it easier for someone to hack into the program and alter its content or algorithm, which might be detrimental to the reputation of both the seller and the product, especially if pirate organizations decide to issue viruses with brand-related symbols. Therefore, businesses often choose to obfuscate their source code so that others cannot steal their intellectual property merely by seeing it without first understanding how it operates.
3) Maintaining superior quality:
One of the regulations governing the release of software applications under an open-source license is that the source code must be accessible to everyone. However, there have been instances in which groups have altered the original code to include viruses and malware instead of releasing a patch with a fix, which could further damage the company’s reputation. As a result, it may be advantageous to restrict access to one’s source code to prevent such errors from occurring.
4) Hiding vulnerabilities:
In addition to avoiding unauthorized access, obfuscating the information inside an application makes it difficult for people who may want to access it unlawfully by making it more difficult to develop flaws that would enable them to enter the file. Consider a software application that stores user data locally without encrypting it. In such a scenario, this information becomes available to others, leading to identity theft or even the sale of sensitive data. However, if this file is obfuscated, it will be more difficult for others to discover where the sensitive data is kept and steal it, hence decreasing the value of software with vulnerabilities on the black market.
5) Enable code reuse:
When working on numerous projects simultaneously, developers often need to reuse code they previously produced or got from a different source. This saves time and allows them to focus on other issues, rather than having to reinvent the wheel every time; however, when utilizing open-source material, there is always a chance that it has been tampered with or missing parts that are necessary for its functionality, which could result in errors. When source code is obfuscated, it becomes more difficult for others to modify the materials that developers are working on, which makes them more dependable and saves you time since you won’t have to constantly check for flaws or defects.
6) Making sure that your intellectual property is not stolen
Since developers spend a lot of time improving open-source information before making it available to the public, it has the same intellectual property as private software. What if someone gets their hands on one’s file via hacking, for example? Then they may use the information contained inside to create a programme that is less effective than their own, so snatching customers who would otherwise benefit from their offering. As a result, their intellectual property can’t be stolen and utilised in their products by safeguarding their code and making it hard for anyone to access it.
7) Lower threat of malware:
And it may seem unfair that bigger corporations can pay for obfuscating source code while smaller ones cannot, there is a benefit since those who cannot afford this procedure are in danger of being attacked by criminal groups. For instance, if someone used a software exploit that allowed them to insert illegal content without altering any other part of the program, it could lead police directly to their doorstep if they were caught with something deemed offensive or detrimental to society, regardless of whether they downloaded the software illegally or not. If there are no publicly known vulnerabilities in your file, then this is less likely to occur because people are less likely to risk being caught; however, if one is using open-source material, then anyone could have made changes that allow for such things, meaning that criminals may figure out how to exploit them.
8) Reverse engineering protection:
Code obfuscation makes it more difficult for those with harmful intentions to get access to an application’s code. It’s fairly uncommon for firms to include wording in their contracts to their customers declaring that their source code is secret unless the other party explicitly authorises it, suggesting that the code cannot be discussed with anyone else. Reverse engineering this drug would make it harder to get.
Code Obfuscation alone is insufficient to deal with complicated security concerns. Even if it makes deobfuscating code harder, the availability of automated tools and hackers’ knowledge does not make reverse engineering impossible.