.NET obfuscation tools/strategy

Question :

.NET obfuscation tools/strategy,

Answer :

My product has several components: ASP.NET, Windows Forms App and Windows Service. 95% or so of the code is written in VB.NET.

For Intellectual Property reasons, I need to obfuscate the code, and until now I have been using a version of dotfuscator which is now over 5 years old. I’m thinking it is time to move to a new generation tool. What I’m looking for is a list of requirements which I should consider when searching for a new obfuscator.

What I know I should look for so far:

  • Serialization/De-serialization. In my current solution, I simply tell the tool not to obfuscate any class data members because the pain of not being able to load data which was previously serialized is simply too big.
  • Integration with Build Process
  • Working with ASP.NET. In the past, I have found this problematic due to changing .dll names (you often have one per page) – which not all tools handle well.
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We’ve tried a number of obfuscators. None of them work on a large client/server app that uses remoting. Problem is that client and server share some dlls, and we haven’t found any obfuscator that can handle it.

We’ve tried DotFuscator Pro, SmartAssembly, XenoCode, Salamander, and several small time apps whose names escape me.

Frankly, I’m convinced obfuscation is a big hack.

Even the problems it addresses is not entirely a real problem. The only thing you really need to protect is connection strings, activation codes, security-sensitive things like that. This nonsense that another company is going to reverse-engineer your whole codebase and create a competing product from it is something from a paranoid manager’s nightmare, not reality.

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