Snake oil for Web site protection

The other day I received a pitch for an "Internet Wealth and Success" seminar. This was quite a package. A limit of 130 attendees, a staff of 27 (all proclaimed to be Internet marketing gurus although I have never ever heard of any of them ... maybe I don't get out enough), and a price tag of $3,997 per person (but book early to avoid disappointment).

Anyway, what caught my eye was a link to "earnings and income disclaimers" at the end of the ridiculously long pitch page. This page contains some legal voodoo that basically says that when it comes to making money out of this seminar "your mileage may vary." But what caught my notice about this page was that its content couldn't be copied and a flickering notice in the browser status bar proclaimed "Page protected by"

Then I realized that not only could I not select and copy the text on the disclaimers page or call up the right click context menu but now copying to the Windows clipboard didn't work in ANY application.

This was curious enough to warrant investigation and lo and behold, it turns out that WebLockPro uses some really simple techniques to make it slightly harder than usual to see what is on a page.

One of these simple techniques involves some JavaScript that just loops and continually blocks access to the page. Another technique is to mess with the clipboard if IE's "allow paste operations via script" option is set to "Enable" (that's found under IE's Tools | Internet Options | Security | Internet | Custom Level) which also affects other Windows applications.

I won't bother going into exactly how you can end run this "protection" (just look under "WebLockPro" under Google and there are plenty of sites with the requisite assistance) but suffice it to say, this utility is useless against even novice hackers.

But the pitch for WebLockPro is a symphony of shrill and dire warnings about how your Web site contents can be stolen by bad people. The sad thing is that many wannabee Webmasters will believe the pitch.

The fact is that there is no way to protect the content and code of Web pages. The nature of the technologies we use simply doesn't allow for hiding or obfuscating in ways that are profound enough to deter anyone who really wants to see what's going on.

It seems that snake oil whether it is of the "get rich with Internet marketing" or of the "your Web site can be protected from copying" variety is sadly alive and positively thriving.

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