Crackulous Defeats App Protection


crackulousiconI debated covering this, because in no way do I or TheAppleBlog endorse the cracking and/or illegal distribution of software, but it definitely deserves attention because of the potential implications it has for the future of Apple’s (s aapl) App Store. A new app available for jailbroken iPhones called “Crackulous” now allows owners of phones running the hacked firmware to remove the copyright protection from any app available legitimately through the official App Store. Push-button simple cracking means that torrent sites will likely soon be flooded with .ipa files installable via iTunes on any iPhone or iPod Touch, jailbroken or not.

Until now, getting cracked versions of apps onto Apple handset devices has required jailbreaking, and there is probably a significant portion of their userbase who avoided trying for just that reason. The availability of easy-to-install, free versions of any and all apps currently in the App Store does not bode well for sales, at least not if piracy rates in comparable areas like PC games and software are any indication.

Likely this will spark a cat-and-mouse game between Apple and would-be pirates, with Apple introducing new, more difficult to crack copyright protections, and Crackulous developers updating their software to counter as necessary. The problem in this case is the issue of legacy software. Apps already approved and downloaded by users will lack any protection updates unless Apple conducts a total overhaul and upgrades the protection on the existing 15,000-plus applications. This would obviously be extremely time-consuming, and annoying for iPhone users, unless Apple can find a way to quietly push a fix to all devices without requiring action from individual developers and/or users.

Speaking as an iPhone user, the only reason to even worry about this app is because Apple still refuses to implement a trial or demo infrastructure into the App Store. That means it’s up to developers to release a “lite” or stripped-down version of their apps if they want to offer users a preview. Not being one to part with my hard-earned money very easily, I see the appeal of getting to try out an app before spending even $2 or $3 on it, and cracked apps, though unethical and illegal, offer that possibility.

Hopefully Apple waits to see how many iPhone users end up actually crossing over into using cracked apps before making any moves that might alienate and inconvenience those of us who continue to use the App Store legitimately. An overreaction on Apple’s part could do more damage than the inroad Crackulous creates for piracy.



This site has a right to post this information if they want to. It it not unethical to report on something, or discuss it’s implications. It could be argued that it is unethical to advocate censorship of the media, as that takes us down a slippery slope. The author is not advocating or endorsing stealing applications, no matter how you interpret it. Get off your high horse and be realistic. Then read and discuss the topic like an intelligent human being.

On topic: Personally, I’m not sure if this will have as great an impact as it might appear possible to. While this will make cracked applications available outside of the jailbreak community, people would still need to seek them out, and I believe that the average consumer is simply too lazy to do so. When it comes to PC software, the prices tend to be higher, and seeing as you’re already sitting at your computer, a simple search on sites like PirateBay may be cheaper and easier than purchasing. The advantage that I believe the AppStore has is it’s simplicity, it’s on-the-go access, and it’s average price point. Perhaps more expensive apps will find themselves pirated more, but overall, I think that if there is an impact, it will be minimal.

Carlton Bale

I am very strongly against stealing apps. The only possibly legitimate use I see for this is to “bring back” free apps that are no longer available from the Apps store, such as Netshare.


@ Gazoobee

You seem to have a habit of “reading between the lines” as in #4 and your reply (#6) to my comment that is patently crude. First of all, kindly grant us that we are honest and ethical folks here. As such, there is nothing wrong about reporting dishonest facts, unethical deeds, etc. and discussing their implications, even among honest and ethical folks. The main theme of the blog entry is to touch upon the “potential implications it has for the future of Apple’s App Store.” In my comment I made clear my dislike of the present situation, I noted that it is not sustainable and presented what I think will be the likely outcome. I made no value judgement on whether the road that leads us from A to B is the optimal route.
The only value judgement I made is that any B is far better than A. Yet, I stand accused by you of being unethical, idiotic and not knowing what I’m talking about.


Come on guys, the author of the post is clear that he does not approve of the practice of any of this stuff. To my taste he is even a bit to careful (though not to the minds of most of the commenters). As both Darrel and Wilfried (in the comments) write – albeit in different ways – the described development might affect the quantity and quality of apps. The article is thus newsworthy for the people reading this blog. That, on the other hand, the post might help promote doing illegal things is something to be considered. But hey, we are not talking about the “how to” on the nuclear bomb here, what’s next? news papers are no longer allowed to report on crime (something a whole lot worse than what we are dealing with here) because it might get people to try it out for themselves?


Accusing a website for reporting stories that are out there is plain stupid. That’s what media is made for: Reporting stuff that happens. Did you accuse the media for endorsing Al-Qaida because they covered 9/11?

That being said, whatever can be done, will be done. That’s a general rule for mankind. So now there is a way to steal iPhone apps – like there is a way to practically steal any other kind of real or virtual goods. It’s up to every individual to make a decission if he is going down that road or not.

Information will hopefully help individuals to come to a reasonable decission. Blaming the messenger of potentially bad news certainly doesn’t help anybody.

wilfried benenboom

Naming the absence of preview software for some apps as a reason to download cracked software and then later “buy” it when you like it (which nobody ever does) is just fake. Most apps are cheaper than a beer in your local pub (do you want a preview of that too?) and those few that are expensive mostly have youtube movies explaining what they do.

Cracking platforms like the DS and the PSP has been really popular but also part of their downfall. Now there’s not a single serious developer left who wants to build good DS or PSP games because they will be cracked the day they’re released!


Remember that you just lost a reader of your site because of your decision. I don’t care if you don’t care…. Bye!!!


@ MarceloR:

You are actually trying to argue that because you find it hard to find good apps at the app store that wholesale theft of any and all apps is okay? This is not only unethical, it’s idiotic. You simply don’t know what you are talking about.


I see this as very good news as it throws a monkey wrench in the status quo. What we have now is plenty of inexpensive, simplistic type of apps and games that appeal to a large mass of people clogging up the distribution channels. This situation benefits few other than the distributor itself. It does not benefit me as it makes it extremely hard to sift through the AppStore to find an app to which the accolade “useful” can be applied to. Lock, stock, and barrel they are third rate apps written by third rate amateurs able to conjure up “nice graphics”. (The exceptions I have been able to find are 1Password, Evernote, OmniFocus, DataCase, GarageBuy, FStream, NetNewsWire and the wonderful i41CX+. In numbers, these are a mere drop in the vast sea of waste I came across.) It does not benefit the serious developer because he is not making a sustainable profit and the amateur developer trades in “bragging rights.” Thus, because the amateur is satisfied with bragging rights and the few dollars he can make off of his two-day effort, he relinquishes his toil to the distributor. Cunningly, the latter not only holds the key of access to the ring tone-buying public with a lust for nice graphics, but also guarantees that one payment shall be forthcoming from each member of said buying public — hitherto. Indeed, the cracking news you bring, so to speak, is not only welcome but perfectly natural in the current dynamics. The expectation of this, yes, positive development, is that a goodly portion of this buying public will avail themselves of cracked apps which will remove the stimulus to developers to keep feeding the system with their current fare. They will change their ways or clear the field. My hope is that this will leave room to a new wave of apps that are truly innovative albeit at a much higher price than we now see at the AppStore. You will buy an app because you find it provides you with an advantage or convenience in your professional or personal life. Others will crack it and use it because in their calculus, they do not find the benefit exceeding the cost of their time. On balance though, the developer will make money, you will be a happy, and I will be happy, and Apple, well, Apple will be Apple.


I disagree that anyone “had” to publicise these criminals and even if someone did, it’s already on a few other more famous blogs so there is no reason for you to actually jump on it too. Face the truth here, you’re publishing this because you wanted to say something about it.

Unfortunately, what you have to say is neither illuminating or nice IMO. This part here in particular:

“Speaking as an iPhone user, the only reason to even worry about this app is because Apple still refuses to implement a trial or demo infrastructure into the App Store.”

Sounds to me like you completely agree with the (bogus) justification that the creators of the hack employ themselves, which is the idea that they have a right to do it because there is no “preview” on a $0.99 application. However, this view is is illogical, unsupported and just plain crazy.

It’s pretty clear to me by reading between the lines that the author has tried this stuff himself and is at least a tertiary member of the so-called “jailbreak community.” He talks about how hard it was to get cracked apps previously etc.

Finally, I have to say again that this article is weaving a giant fantasy (as are the authors of Crackulous) when it implies that somehow getting free previews of applications would cause this kind of behaviour and this kind of software to go away. What utter nonsense.

This application is nothing noble, it’s not a blow struck for justice or anything of the sort and the people behind it were never going to actually purchase anything. It’s about stealing. The kind of stealing the author and most tech blogs on the iPhone have supported this last year, by being supporting the development of, and being apologists for, the illegal practice of jail-breaking in the first place.


@kreatre2008: yeah, like those pesky newspapers that advertise carjackers, drug dealers and burglars.

Josh Pigford

@kreatre2008: Yep, you’re spot on. We posted this because we know our readers are mindless drones who can’t make decisions for themselves and we wanted to promote the stealing of IP! ;)

Honestly though, you’re sensationalizing the crap out of your view and it’s unnecessary. Making accusations like we’re “endorsing the work of thieves” and that the reason we posted this was because every other apple blog would be doing it is just teenage girl dramatic.


Thanks for endorsing and advertising the work of thieves! It must not have been too much of a debate. You just didn’t want to go without mentioning this because you knew every other supposedly pro-Apple blog would be doing it. You have just stabbed every iPhone developer in the back. Thanks!


First line of the post? “I debated covering this, because in no way do I or TheAppleBlog endorse the cracking and/or illegal distribution of software…”

Although what you say is true. Developers (like me) spend a year working on an application, try to make some money (in my case to fund college) and just watch their app get stolen.

I think a lot of people underestimate how much work it takes to write an application. How long do you think it took me to put an option for uploading to Flickr in my yet-to-be-released app? 30 minutes? 45 minutes? An hour? Wrong—it took me 4 days.

This article is what I’m talking about:

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