It's been a pretty hectic day (server outage, fun!); hope you don't mind a classic. Lock In Key Security was originally published on August 29, 2006.

Noah Nordrum isn't proud of what he's become. He is now, officially, a cracker. I mean, "kr@xx0rs." Err, I think. I don't know. I got that from my "3773 Speek" guide.

As the "computer whiz" of the family, Noah is responsible for solving any technical problem that an aunt, grandparent, or second cousin may have, ranging from "funny symbols in my Word" (Show Formatting turned on) to "blinking 12:00 on the VCR" (don't look at me, I don't know how to fix that). Obviously, he's never heard of my sure-fire way of avoiding the "family tech support" role: just tell your relatives that you work only with mainframes. The kind that takes up an entire room, prints on green-bar paper, and has a whole bunch of blinking lights. Trust me, it works. That's what most people think The Internet looks like.

On a recent "support call," one of Noah's relatives was having a seemingly basic problem. She wanted to retrieve notes from program she was using for her legal case files but was receiving an error message when trying to start it up.

This problem looked like it just might be as difficult to solve as Aunt Josie's "please insert the second disk to continue the installation" dilemma of 2004. Noah called up Brian and was greeted with a simple "Hello." He inquired about renewing the Legalese Pro software and received this terse reply:

"Sorry bud, I don't do that any more. Can't offer ya' any help with it, either. Gotta run. Adios!"

Noah reported this to his relative. "Well, duh! I could've told you that," she replied, "I was hoping you extract the notes from the database into Excel or something."

Wow! There's a relative who not only knows the words "extract," "database," and "Excel," but actually used them properly? Looks like the Nordrums have a new computer whiz.

Noah headed on over and got to work. He went straight into the program directory, hoping to find a database. Instead he found a file named licence.key. It seemed like a good place to start, so he opened it up in Notepad:


! Legalese Pro License File - Do Not Modify
! Generated Mon Jan 24 21:17:47 EST 2001
expiration-date = 07-31-2005
key = 78c52ab4f6244475fb7ebefb21b7111c

Could it really be that easy? He changed the date to 2010, saved the file, and started up the program. Drat! A System Error.

Err ... wait a second ... that "Was" value looks awfully familiar. Maybe replacing the key field in the licence.key file with the "Expected Value" just might do the trick ...

Yup. You guessed it. Legalese Pro fired right up and worked like a champ. Who woulda thought that becoming a "3773 kr@xx0rs" would be so easy?

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