Interview

How AppSealing protects your Android games from hacking

How AppSealing protects your Android games from hacking

Every developer has a story to tell about how many of their games have been pirated.

You don't hear so much about hacking, however.

Maybe that's because it's harder to detect or maybe it's because it's harder for developers to combat.

One company looking to change this situation is Korean DRM outfit INKA Entworks. Known for its server-based solutions, it's recent launched its AppSealing mobile security service.

We caught up with head of global marketing Gin Hyeon to find out more.

PocketGamer: Can you explain what AppSealing is?

Gin Hyeon: AppSealing is a cloud-based one-stop security service for mobile applications.

Targeting mobile games, it incorporates multilayered cryptography technology to protect mobile game applications from being hacked and pirated.

Unlike other robust security solutions, AppSealing is easy-to-use, fast-to-implement and affordable. Supporting all the major game engines, developers can implement the AppSealing service as an afterthought, right before submitting their files for commercial release.

We hear a lot about piracy of games but what's the big problem with hacking?

Although there are numerous reasons why hacking is a big problem for mobile game developers, there are two most common issues shared by developers.

We have seen countless game titles that failed because hackers started to destroy the in-game market place.
Gin Hyeon

The first issue is the loss of IP. There have been countless reports of games being hacked, modified and re-posted as different games. In essence, someone could be directly making money from the hard work of game developers.

The second major concern is game data hacks. In short, editing the data within the game.

Imagine that a developer has launched its new F2P game and is relying on in-app purchases to get return on its investment. It is a delicate balance of making sure that the game is fun, yet making it slightly difficult to encourage players to buy certain items sold in the game store to make their characters stronger, hence, more enjoyable to play.

Now imagine that someone starts editing their character data, or starts editing the in-game currency to purchase these items for free. Not only would the game company lose revenue from this particular hacker, but also this causes a major issue in the in-game market place as players who actually purchased these items without cheating are start to feel frustrated.

The AppSealing proces

This specific example is not something new in the game industry. In the online game market, we have seen countless game titles that failed because hackers started to destroy the in-game market place, causing legitimate players to stop playing the game.

Not only does it affect the game market place, eventually it significantly shortens the life cycle of the game.

How much hacking of mobile games is going on?

Considering most game developers or publishers do not openly share how many times their games have been hacked, it is difficult to give an exact number.

Having said that, try using any search engines and type in 'hack' followed by any of the top 100 games on Google Play. You will probably find numerous sites offering hacked and pirated versions of these games.

There are even YouTube videos with millions of hits giving a friendly step-by-step instruction on how to get unlimited gems for top grossing Android games.

But for games that have been 'Sealed' through the AppSealing service, we track any attempts made to hack them and share these results with the game developers or publishers.

One of our clients, an indie game developer based in Korea told us that we could share the results we found from their game. They had recently launched a Sealed game and got around 580 downloads in the first month.

Though it is not a significant number in terms of downloads, there were 30 attempts made to try to hack the source code of the game, and 51 attempts made to use thirdparty cheating tools to edit the game data.

AppSealing is focused on Android but for games built in Unity, it also offers iOS protection. Why?

It was quite evident early on that we needed to support the major game engines to ensure that AppSealing would be well received by game developers.

Unity3D is by far the most used thirdparty engine in 3D mobile games. Yet, unlike most Android games that are SO files, games made with Unity3D are saved as DLL files to allow developers to have one build that can run on multiple platforms (Android and iOS).

If we only supported the Android version of game developed using Unity3D, it would leave a huge hole for hackers to exploit. In essence, they would just need to get their hands on the iOS version of the game, hack the DLL file, and load it on the Android version of the game, bypassing the protection.

To protect against such cases, AppSealing has a Sealing process for iOS version of games that use the Unity3D engine.

How long does it take to add protection to an APK and how much does AppSealing add in terms of file size?

There are only three steps to the AppSealing service. The first step is adding tags or splitting the codes of the game file. Next, game developers would build the APK on our cloud-based server. The final step is to upload and download the APK file to our cloud-based Sealing server.

A helpful step-by-step instruction is available on our website and it typically takes less than one hour for any new game developers using our service to read, follow and implement the process.

In terms of the game file size, it depends on the initial file size, but from our experience, it does not exceed 2MB. We would like to add that once AppSealing is implemented on the game, the only difference it makes in terms of performance is adding less than a second to the load time of the game.

It does not affect the gameplay in terms of CPU usage, speed, or battery usage.

What's your pricing structure?

AppSealing offers three different bundles in pricing. The First Launch bundle contains 30 credits at $49 per credit, the Ongoing Maintenance bundle has 10 credits at $100 per credit, and the Occasional Updates has 5 credits at $119 per credit.

Once activated, the credits within the bundle are valid for 30 days. Each game file that is loaded onto our Sealing server requires one credit. Once the APK file has been Sealed, it is protected for the duration of its life.

This is client-side protection, so do you offer anything on the backend?

AppSealing is a client-side protection service developed by INKA Entworks Inc.

Established in 2000, we have over 14 registered patents in the security field. On the server side Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions, our solution is one of seven around the world that has been approved by the top five Hollywood studios to service contents (including movies).

We also have an Application Rights Management (ARM) Solution currently being used by LG and NHN (LINE) to service their contents.

Our AppSealing service has been approved by Disney after being tested and vetted by their thirdparty white hat hacking group.

You can find out more about AppSealing's services via its website.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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