Crack Tracker

Defend your intellectual property rights against online piracy
CONTENTS
Introduction
Program Interface
Search for illegal downloads
Inspect results
Send your DMCA notice to remove downloads
Managing multiple products
Program Settings
License activation
Miscellaneous

Are you in a hurry? Too bored to read manuals? Then watch the demo video demo video
You will also find many useful tips and tricks in the blog

Introduction

There is so much piracy on the Net that most authors of software, art, music etc are resigned to their "fate" and disregard the abuse of their intellectual property and copyright. Crack Tracker is a tool that will help authors and their creations against illegal downloads from file-sharing websites like rapidshare.com

Here's how much of the online piracy works. Some cracker group develops a patch or keygen that circumvents the protection (DRM) of your software title. Then they announce their feat in some shady 'specialist' crack sites and newsgroups, including a link to your partially disabled software. These illegal downloads are usually hosted in sites like rapidshare, mediafire, letitbit and many others. As long as these download links are live, people are using illegal copies of your software, without paying, and you lose money.

The big file-hosting sites like rapidshare.com make their living from downloads, but they don't upload the illegal content themselves. They run a legitimate business and if you alert them to some illegal download they will remove it, as they subscribe to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The problem is that there are tons of these illegal downloads, hundreds of file-hosting sites (335 known to crack tracker) so hunting them down manually is a full time job. But that's the perfect task for Crack Tracker!

Crack Tracker is a crack meta-search engine that uses the same search engines popular with people searching for warez to discover all live downloads that match a search keyword (e.g. the name of your software title). Crack Tracker will:

If you identify yourself as the original author and list all the relevant download URLs in your DMCA takedown notice (email), your cracked programs will be delisted... until new ones turn up! (ad infinitum). So make this a habit, search at least once a month for fresh illegal content. Once you start using crack tracker you will discover that fighting online piracy is very easy.


Program Interface

main window
Figure 1. The main window

Crack Tracker has a very simple user interface. The main window comprises a customary menu bar and status bar plus 3 main panels:

Divider lines with sliders separate the three panes; they can be resized to taste. The menu bar has a few simple commands but you hardly ever use them, except perhaps for View > Settings (see below).

The status bar shows information about the progress of the keyword search and the results obtained this far. If you need to abort a search click on the Cancel search button in the keyword search form.

A keyword search can take a long time, but crack tracker will not need any user intervention. You can leave it running in the background; when the search is complete you will be notified with a message.


Theoretically you could use a search engine like google to find illegal downloads of your program. However crackers operate in the darker sides of the internet where google won't be of much help. Crack Tracker uses some specialized search engines like filestube.com which index material from file hosting sites popular with warez and crackers. You can select which engines to use from View > Engines menu command.

supported search engines
Figure 2. Search engine selection dialog

The more search engines you use, the broader the search and the more results you will get -- but inevitably the search will take longer. Some of the engines may overlap fetching similar results, but Crack Tracker will not list duplicate downloads. Sometimes you may have to read and type a CAPTCHA confirmation otherwise some engines will refuse to list any results, just follow the prompts issued by Crack Tracker.

Crack Tracker will validate the URLs for the most popular file-hosting sites to make sure they are live and active. If some found download is no longer available it will be removed from the list. Sometimes a download from a lesser website will be fetched and these will be listed unchecked (you can tell these results as they don't contain Name or Size information).

The quality of the results depends on the search keyword you specify in the search form (pane 1). If you use a generic keyword like "Software" it is unlikely you will get something relevant to you. The more keywords you use and the more relevant they are to your product, the better the chances to discover your illegal downloads. The most reasonable keyword is your software name; if that is too generic then add the name of your company as an extra keyword. If your software name contains spaces, then use double quotes e.g. "My Software Title".

Crack Tracker uses an embedded form or MS Internet Explorer to scan for illegal downloads. It visits some risque areas of the internet in the process, but does so carefully and with maximum security, having all scripting and image downloading disabled. Some of the search engines utilized require javascript (marked with JS in Figure 2 above), so there is a certain risk, but you can exclude these searches from the program options (see Allow scripts setting below). Naturally you should make sure that you have all reasonable precautions enabled on your computer (turn on automatic updates, use an up to date antivirus, run as a limited privilege user etc).

If you are risk averse you can setup a virtual machine with internet connection and run crack tracker from in there. Whatever changes and intrusions will be lost when you reset the virtual machine. Just make sure you have an email account setup in your VM so that you can send the DMCA notices.


Inspect results

Crack Tracker will show an alert when a keyword search is finished. All the valid, unique downloads will be listed in pane 2 with their details. You can click on the list view headers to sort the results by each column, i.e. alphabetically or by size. It is advisable to browse the results before further actions, to ensure they are relevant to you.

Search results also include a little icon representing the search engine that found the download link. A little red question mark in the icon means that the download URL is not confirmed. Crack Tracker knows many file hosting websites, but only the biggest players (rapidshare.com, hotfile.com etc) are fully investigated. If you see a result with a question mark (it will also lack title and size information) you can double click on it to see if the download exists or not.

Any download URLs that don't seem to fit can be removed from the list using Edit > Delete result menu command or hitting <DEL> key. You can select more than one results at a time in the usual manner: either <SHIFT>+click to select a range or <CTRL>+click to select individual downloads.

You can select many items at once using the filter box in the results pane toolbar. Just type part of a name and click Select button to highlight all the matching entries from the results. This filtering in conjunction with Edit > Invert selection menu command can weed out unwanted results quickly.

If you regularly get the same irrelevant (not wanted) download URLs, you can add them to the exclusion list so that they are not returned in future searches. Simply right click on such a URL and pick Black List command from the context menu.

Importing and exporting

You can export all the search results as text using the Copy toolbar button or equivalently Edit > Copy results menu command. Then you can use any text editor like windows Notepad to paste the text and save it as a file, for future reference. If you want to export only the selected/hilighted search results please right click on them and use the copy command from the context menu.

Sometimes you may have extra search results that crack tracker isn't aware of. You can import (paste) them in the results pane using Edit > Import links menu command. The URLs should be in plain text -- one URL per line. Such imported results will be handled like normal search results and will be reported for removal.


Send your DMCA notice to remove downloads

Once you have pruned the results list to remove any irrelevant download URLs, you proceed to have them removed from the internet and stop the abuse on your intellectual property. There is no point contacting the people responsible for uploading the cracked versions of your software, just notify the file-hosting sites to take down the downloads.

A proper DMCA section 512 takedown notice would involve solicitors and formal letters and procedures, but thankfully you can cut through the red tape and just send a formal email to a host and chances are they will oblige and remove the illegal content. There are many sample DMCA notices you can use as your base template, and Crack Tracker includes one for your convenience.

Although you are sending the notice through email, many hosts insist on a formal letter that includes your personal information as the copyright holder, meaning you must disclose your name, address and telephone number in case you need to be contacted. The first time you use Edit > DMCA notice menu command you will be prompted to setup your own email template with your specific details. You must replace all @@@ markers you find, e.g. instead of {@@@YOUR_COMPANY_NAME} type in your own company name and so on.

Crack Tracker will bunch together download URLs and send a single email to each file-hosting site containing all the URLs that are hosted by e.g. hotfile.com. (The download URLs are inserted at the location of the special <%URLIST%> marker). You will get a chance to review each email before it is sent for any last minute changes. The standard email address for reporting copyright infringements is abuse@xxx.com.

Crack tracker cannot send the email notices unless you have a properly setup email account on your computer. Most people in the target audience will have an email client like Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird, so Crack Tracker can send emails through your default account. You don't have to re-set your SMTP or other email account settings to use the program. The professional version allows the use of outgoing SMTP servers too.

Once you send your notice, the response depends on the hosting site. Some are fast to react, some are slow. Some will confirm the removal of the downloads, some will just take them down without any contact. The bottom line is that you have the content removed sooner or later. In most cases these websites have a list of 'confirmed' source email addresses, so after a couple of DMCA notices things should get even faster for processing your emails.

Keep in mind that fighting piracy is a never ending battle. As soon as you delist some downloads, new ones will crop up, especially as you release version updates. Make it a habit to use Crack Tracker regularly (e.g. once a month) to keep the internet clear.

How do I know my downloads are removed?

Crack tracker has no supernatural powers or any privileged means of removing cracks and keygens. It merely searches for warez, then sends takedown emails. You could picture yourself doing this manually. It may be an efficient robot for the search and report tasks, but that's where it stops.

The file hosting sites themselves remove the illegal downloads once they receive the email notice. This can take up to a week for some websites. Sometimes emails are lost or filtered into junk mail folders so they cannot be acted upon. It is quite possible that your emails are ignored some times. Some hosts will send you an email confirming the removal of the downloads; others just remove links without any communication.

On the other hand you don't have to keep track of emails you have sent or worry about whether the links are removed. If they are, then fine, if the downloads are still available, again no worries -- Crack tracker will find them again next time you search! Eventually, with persistence, your files will be removed.

Here are some final tips:


Managing multiple products [PRO]

If you are a bigger company and manage more than one product, you will regularly do a number of different keyword searches, one for each product you want removed from filesharing sites. In this case you will prefer the professional version of Crack Tracker that caters for multiple products.

To manage your products (e.g. software titles), use the campaign button in the search form (pane 1), where you can define as many search campaigns as necessary using the following dialogs:

manage campaigns campaign properties

Figure 2a. Search campaigns dialog and campaign properties

Each product has a name, one or more search keywords and possibly its own DMCA takedown notice email template (e.g. if you want to have different contact address or website information per product). To manage the products list use the toolbar buttons (highlighted with the red border in the above figure).

If you use a remote SMTP server to send the DMCA emails you can define an alternative identity as part of a product. The emails will go through the same server but they will appear as coming from whatever email address you put in Alternate email identity input field.

Tick the unattended search mode option to instruct crack tracker to minimize on unimportant messages and user interaction as much as possible during search. When silent mode is on, you will not get a chance to change the email template before delivery, nor will you see individual emails sent via SMTP - the whole procedure will move automatically with defaults. You lose some control in exchange of less hassle. Note that crack tracker will pause after the end of search so that you can examine the results before clicking on the DMCA notice button.

Once you have your products setup, select the one you want to search for and click on Run button to start the search (or double-click on the product name). If there are more than one keywords to deal with, each will be searched separately and the results will be reported in one stroke in the end.

If you don't want the hassle of defining products and campaigns, you can simply type multiple keywords in the search box (figure 1) separating them with commas, e.g.
  keyword1, keyword2, "complex keyword"
and click on the Track button to begin the search. Multiple comma separated keywords are only supported in the professional version.


Program Settings

Crack Tracker is a simple and straightforward tool with a very focused task so it will be very easy to use. The 'hardest' part would be thinking of the correct keyword to use that uncovers your material.

There are some program options that fine tune the operation of Crack Tracker available from View > Settings menu command. The defaults should be best for most people. As you select each option you see some explanatory text in the information line near the bottom of the program settings dialog. You can change options using the buttons that appear on the right when you select an option; many options change when you double click on the option name. Here all the settings are explained in detail.

program settings
Figure 3. Program settings dialog

Check results. [default=NO] Issue a warning message if a search brings up too many results, an indication that the search keyword is too broad and possibly will produce irrelevant results. But it could also mean you have too many cracks online!

Max download URLs. [default=500] How many search results to process from each search engine at maximum. Increase for a more exhaustive search.

Maximum URLs per page. [default=12] Some large downloads are split in many parts to keep the individual size down. If your program is small then many download parts may indicate a large and therefore irrelevant download. But it could also be that your tool is included as a part of a "utility CD" so it is something interesting to you after all.

Confirm keywords. [default=YES] Insist that the search keywords appear in the search results as stated (including quoted keywords with spaces). Ensures that results are relevant to your query.

Parallel searches. [default=4] By default not all search engines run simultaneously to avoid connection timeouts. If you have a fast internet connection, set this to 0 for unlimited parallel searches and faster operation. E.g. setting this to 2 will only use 2 search tabs - the search will take longer but the results may be more reliable.

Auto clear results. [default=NO] Whether to clear the results list automatically after each new keyword search.

Confirmed URLs only. [default=NO] Crack Tracker knows of the internals of the most popular hosting sites and it can validate if a download URL is available or not. But it also reports on smaller sites without checking if the download is live (the Name and Size columns will be empty). If you switch this option to YES you won't see these sites reported.

Allow scripts. [default=NO] A few search engines require JavaScript to operate properly with the moderate security risks this entails. If you turn this option off (=NO) then only engines that can run without scripting will be used.

AutoRun monthly. [default=YES] Create a monthly task so that crack tracker is scheduled to run automatically 30 days from the last day used. This is a reminder, in case you forget to deal with the crack search and report chore.

Email subject. Subject line for DMCA notice email.

Email template. Bare bones template for DMCA notice. You must edit this to remove all @@@ markers, replacing them with your own information. Also leave the <%URLIST%> marker where you want the list of download URLs inserted. Optionally you can use the tokens <%DATE%> (replaced by date) and <%KEYWORD%> (replaced by latest search keyword or campaign name). All %TOKENS% are case sensitive.

Delivery. [default=EMAIL CLIENT] If you have the professional version you can choose the email delivery method, which is either the default email client program you have installed on your computer, or some remote SMTP server you setup.

Outgoing server. [default=NONE]. Address and login information for remote SMTP server, see below for more information.

Save on exit. [default=REGISTRY] Program settings are automatically saved when you exit Crack Tracker in the registry. You can also save them to a settings file called KTRAK.INI or not save them at all.

Settings file location. If you opt for a settings file, it can be located either next to the program (make sure you can write in the installation folder in non-elevated mode) or in your user profile folder C:\Users\<you>\AppData\Roaming. You can also specify a custom settings file using the /I: command line option (see below)

Outgoing SMTP server [PRO]

If you own the professional version you can use a remote SMTP server to send your emails (DMCA takedown notices). Turn on the SMTP server delivery from View > Settings menu, then use Outgoing server item to setup the server address and login information as below:

outgoing server
Figure 3a. Remote SMTP server setup dialog

This dialog is similar to what you may use in your default email client program. Your webhost will supply the SMTP account details to fill in. Usually the email address is also the login username. Port number is usually 25, or 465 if your server requires SSL encryption (e.g. gmail). When you setup all the fields, use Test settings button to make sure everything works.

The dialog includes a field for the password of your email account. If you tick the Remember option, crack tracker will store the password in your registry (or settings file). This may pose a security threat as conceivably some malicious tool may invade your PC and read off the password. For extra safety do not tick the Remember option to avoid this risk; the mild inconvenience is that you must type in the password each time crack tracker sends out emails.

You can also use your installed email client program to send the emails but setting up an SMTP server has a number of advantages:

Crack Tracker basic version uses your existing email client to send DMCA takedown emails. If you have problems sending emails make sure your email program is properly registered in your control panel as the default email program (click on the image to the right to enlarge). If you have installed any of the popular programs like Outlook, Thunderbird or Live mail you should have this setup automatically. Normally crack tracker will use your default email identity to send the takedown notices, but you can choose another one from your client program's email composition window. default windows email client


License activation

When you first download and install Crack Tracker and until you purchase a license, it operates in free trial mode, so that you can evaluate it before you buy it (try before you buy). When you start the program you are greeted with a 'nag screen' like this:

nag screen
Figure 4. Opening screen with trial options

Click on continue in trial mode button to start your evaluation. In trial mode you can search in full strength for your illegal downloads, but you cannot send DMCA takedown notices. Once you are convinced by the strength of Crack Tracker's search engine you can purchase a key to unlock the remaining menu commands and start removing your illegal downloads. There are many ways to purchase a license, e.g. use Help > Register program menu command or use the order page. There are no time limits in the trial mode but there will be an increasing delay to start the program the longer you wait.

Once your order is processed you will receive an unlock key via email. To use your key restart Crack Tracker and in the opening screen click I have an unlock key button. The external license manager tool will start where you follow the simple instructions to activate your license key. It is recommended that you start the license manager elevated (run as administrator) so that you can write the license file in the installation folder without errors.

license activation
Figure 5. External license manager

Once you buy a license you can use the particular version of Crack Tracker you bought for as long as your wish. However, due to the nature of the program and the ever changing environment of the underlying search engines and file-hosting websites, you will have to keep updating the Crack Tracker so that you get the maximum performance out of it. Your original purchase comes with free updates for a year, and you can renew your license yearly thereafter.

Crack tracker comes in two flavors, basic and professional. If you have problems using the unlock key you purchased, make sure it matches the crack tracker version you have installed. You can check which version you are running using Help > About menu command. If you don't have the correct version installed just get the relevant trial version from the website. You can quickly tell which license you bought from the format of the registration reference number (see the email receipt). Professional version keys are bigger.


Miscellaneous

Software details
Crack tracker runs on any windows NT platform (windows 2000 and later) and requires internet explorer v6 or later (the later the IE version the better). Although it is a 32 bit application it runs without problems on windows 64 bit platforms too.

Command line arguments
You can edit the shortcut icon properties (what you click to start Crack Tracker) to add command line switches and arguments. The (optional) switch /I: declares a custom settings file to be used instead of the default registry settings. Also you can optionally specify a keyword to start searching for immediately when the program starts. Finally /P: is used to specify a proxy server to use:
craktrak.exe "your keyword" "/I:c:\path to\settings_file.INI" /P:76.76.29.42:80

License agreement
A standard software license agreement applies for Crack Tracker (see Help > License agreement menu). Your purchase of a license key entitles you to free updates for a year. From then on upgrade charges will apply. Note that by nature Crack Tracker will be subject to frequent updates to counter an ever changing internet environment (similar to antivirus definition files) to get the maximum performance out of it.

The license allows you to scan for illegal downloads belonging to you or your company only. You cannot resell the results of Crack Tracker e.g. as a service to third parties. Abnormally high usage of the program may be monitored and you may get blacklisted, either by Us or by the search engines themselves.

Customer support
For any support queries or pre-sales questions, regular and prospective customers can use Help > Send feedback menu command to contact the customer support by email. There is also an online forum for crack tracker issues.

DISCLAIMER
Crack Tracker helps fight online piracy but it will not solve all your piracy problems. Please understand the following limitations:


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