Publication Date

Fall 2012

Degree Type

Master's Project


Computer Science


Software activation is a technique designed to avoid illegal use of a licensed software. This is achieved by having a legitimate user enter a software activation key to validate the purchase of the software. Generally, a software is a single-threaded program. From an attacker’s perspective, who does not wish to pay for this software, it is not hard to reverse engineer such a single threaded program and trace its path of execution. With tools such as OllyDbg, the attacker can look into the disassembled code of this software and find out where the verification logic is being performed and then patch it to skip the verification altogether. In order to make the attacker’s task difficult, a multi-threaded approach towards software development was proposed [1]. According to this approach, you should break the verification logic into several pieces, each of which should run in a separate thread. Any debugger, such as OllyDbg, is capable of single-stepping through only one thread at a time, although it is aware of the existence of other threads. This makes it difficult for an attacker to trace the verification logic. Not just for an attacker, it is also difficult for any ethical developer to debug a multithreaded program. The motivation behind this project is to develop the prototype of a debugger that will make it easer to trace the execution path of a multi-threaded program. The intended debugger has to be able to single-step through all of the threads in lockstep.