Software Protection: Dongles

This page lists technologies available in Australia

DEFINITIONS: dongle - copy protection - magic - dongle disk

Tip: Check out their developer kits. With these kits you can try out each system and make your own assessment as to which best suits your needs. The kit may be free if you decide to order that product.

:::  Conlab Pty Ltd

HASP - Software Protection Web Site:

HASP from Aladdin Knowledge Systems
Aladdin's products include eToken, the world's first USB authentication device based on smart card technology; the eSafe line of anti-vandal, anti-virus and content filtering software for PCs and networks connected to the Internet; Privilege, an electronic software licensing platform that enables secure business-to-business software e-commerce; and HASP and Hardlock, software security systems that protect the revenues of software developers and publishers.Securing the Global Village

:::  SafeNet

When SafeNet merged with Rainbow Technologies in March 2004, it became the world’s seventh largest information security company.
Web Site:


:::  Software Protection Systems Pty Ltd

Hardlock Tel: (03) 9544 4455
Fax: (03) 9544 4477

Hardlock from Aladdin Knowledge Systems

twin USB PCMCIA server cpcard memory internal eye

:::  Other Products - iButton

iButtonDongle Software Security Products from 
Dallas Semiconductor 

What is an iButton? 
The iButton® is a computer chip enclosed in a 16mm stainless steel can. Because of this unique and durable stainless steel can, up-to-date information can travel with a person or object anywhere they go. The steel button can be mounted virtually anywhere because it is rugged enough to withstand harsh environments, indoors or outdoors. It is durable enough to attach to a key fob, ring, watch, or other personal items and used daily for applications such as access control to buildings and computers. 

iButton Applications

The iButton system I tested, used one or two buttons in a parallel/serial port connection. The type of button determines the level of protection delivered (ie. timer, serial number, memory, etc. see the web site for more info). In addition, the buttons can be applied to many other interesting tasks - definitely worth having a look at the website or getting a brochure - JBR

a product of
Dallas/Maxim Logo

:::  Other Products - Key Lok


Dongle Software Security Products from
Microcomputer Applications Inc. 

They offer a complete solution to software security.  Microcomputer Applications, Inc. pioneered dongle based software piracy prevention in 1982, and have continued to lead the dongle industry throughout the history of software protection.

Microcomputer Applications, Inc competes directly with Aladdin and Rainbow with their biggest advantages being flexible architecture, proprietary algorithm, and competitive pricing, making an excellent choice for Australian software companies.

Products include USB, Parallel and Serial Port dongles with features such as programmable memory, remote update, lease control algorithms and counters. Check out their website for further details.

:::  Definitions


/dong'gl/ n. 1. A security or copy protection device for commercial microcomputer programs consisting of a serialized EPROM and some drivers in a D-25 connector shell, which must be connected to an I/O port of the computer while the program is run. Programs that use a dongle query the port at startup and at programmed intervals thereafter, and terminate if it does not respond with the dongle's programmed validation code. Thus, users can make as many copies of the program as they want but must pay for each dongle. The idea was clever, but it was initially a failure, as users disliked tying up a serial port this way. Almost all dongles on the market today (1993) will pass data through the port and monitor for magic codes (and combinations of status lines) with minimal if any interference with devices further down the line --- this innovation was necessary to allow daisy-chained dongles for multiple pieces of software. The devices are still not widely used, as the industry has moved away from copy-protection schemes in general. 2. By extension, any physical electronic key or transferable ID required for a program to function. Common variations on this theme have used parallel or even joystick ports. See dongle-disk.

[Note: in early 1992, advertising copy from Rainbow Technologies (a manufacturer of dongles) included a claim that the word derived from "Don Gall", allegedly the inventor of the device. The company's receptionist will cheerfully tell you that the story is a myth invented for the ad copy. Nevertheless, I expect it to haunt my life as a lexicographer for at least the next ten years. --- ESR]

copy protection

n. A class of methods for preventing incompetent pirates from stealing software and legitimate customers from using it. Considered silly.


adj. 1. As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain; compare automagically and (Arthur C.) Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." "TTY echoing is controlled by a large number of magic bits." "This routine magically computes the parity of an 8-bit byte in three instructions." 2. Characteristic of something that works although no one really understands why (this is especially called black magic). 3. [Stanford] A feature not generally publicized that allows something otherwise impossible, or a feature formerly in that category but now unveiled. Compare black magic, wizardly, deep magic, heavy wizardry.


/don'gl disk/ n. A special floppy disk that is required in order to perform some task. Some contain special coding that allows an application to identify it uniquely, others are special code that does something that normally-resident programs don't or can't. (For example, AT&T's "Unix PC" would only come up in root mode with a special boot disk.) Also called a `key disk'. See dongle