Surreptitious software: Models from biology and history

Christian Collberg, Jasvir Nagra, Fei Yue Wang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Over the last decade a bewildering array of techniques have been proposed to protect software from piracy, malicious reverse engineering, and tampering. While we can broadly classify these techniques as obfuscation, watermarking/fingerprinting, birthmarking, and tamper-proofing there is a need for a more constructive taxonomy. In this paper we present a model of Surreptitious Software techniques inspired by defense mechanisms found in other areas: we will look at the way humans have historically protected themselves from each other and from the elements, how plants and animals have evolved to protect themselves from predators, and how secure software systems have been architected to protect against malicious attacks. In this model we identify a set of primitives which underlie many protection schemes. We propose that these primitives can be used to characterize existing techniques and can be combined to construct novel schemes which address a specific set of protective requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHCI International 2013 - Posters' Extended Abstracts - International Conference, HCI International 2013, Proceedings
Number of pages21
EditionPART II
ISBN (Print)3540739858, 9783540739852
StatePublished - 2013
Event15th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, HCI International 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, United States
Duration: Jul 21 2013Jul 26 2013

Publication series

NameCommunications in Computer and Information Science
ISSN (Print)1865-0929


Other15th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, HCI International 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLas Vegas, NV


  • Defense mechanisms
  • Software protection
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Mathematics(all)


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