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How can I hide the source for my Perl program?

by faq_monk (Initiate)
on Oct 08, 1999 at 00:12 UTC ( #540=perlfaq nodetype: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Current Perl documentation can be found at

Here is our local, out-dated (pre-5.6) version:

Delete it. :-) Seriously, there are a number of (mostly unsatisfactory) solutions with varying levels of ``security''.

First of all, however, you can't take away read permission, because the source code has to be readable in order to be compiled and interpreted. (That doesn't mean that a CGI script's source is readable by people on the web, though, only by people with access to the filesystem) So you have to leave the permissions at the socially friendly 0755 level.

Some people regard this as a security problem. If your program does insecure things, and relies on people not knowing how to exploit those insecurities, it is not secure. It is often possible for someone to determine the insecure things and exploit them without viewing the source. Security through obscurity, the name for hiding your bugs instead of fixing them, is little security indeed.

You can try using encryption via source filters (Filter::* from CPAN), but crackers might be able to decrypt it. You can try using the byte code compiler and interpreter described below, but crackers might be able to de-compile it. You can try using the native-code compiler described below, but crackers might be able to disassemble it. These pose varying degrees of difficulty to people wanting to get at your code, but none can definitively conceal it (this is true of every language, not just Perl).

If you're concerned about people profiting from your code, then the bottom line is that nothing but a restrictive licence will give you legal security. License your software and pepper it with threatening statements like ``This is unpublished proprietary software of XYZ Corp. Your access to it does not give you permission to use it blah blah blah.'' We are not lawyers, of course, so you should see a lawyer if you want to be sure your licence's wording will stand up in court.

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