A dongle crack is a method of bypassing a computer security system which uses hardware as well as software. The idea of the system is that the software will only operate when a specific, unique device is inserted into the computer. The dongle crack is an attempt to get around this, often by attempting to use a counterfeit dongle.
The word dongle is often used to refer to any device which plugs into a USB port. However, strictly speaking it only refers to a specific hardware device rather than a mere storage system such as a USB memory stick. There are multiple types of dongle, each providing their own reason for people to attempt a dongle crack.
The original meaning of dongle was a device used as a security system. It is used to protect very expensive software, usually for a niche market. The system means that the software is set up to only run after confirming that the dongle is inserted in the machine. The idea is that it is much harder to reproduce a physical item such as a dongle rather than the software itself.
There are several ways of using a dongle for security, each with its own difficulties for somebody attempting a dongle crack. In its simplest form, the software simply checks if the dongle is physically present. This can be bypassed by hacking the software and setting it so that it always works as if the dongle is present.
Another security method is to have the software send an encrypted confirmation request to the dongle. This can be cracked in the same way as the simple check, but doing so is only possible if the encryption can be defeated. An even more advanced method is to have part of the program stored on the dongle itself rather than in the main software. This makes it much harder to crack, as simply fooling the software into thinking the dongle is present won’t be sufficient.
The expression “dongle crack” can also refer to dongles which are used for wireless broadband services, either through WiFi or the cellphone network. In these cases the dongles are in fact miniature modem devices which plug into a USB slot. In this context, somebody attempting to crack the dongle will likely be trying to breach the encryption and either intercept the data sent to and from the internet, or use the bandwidth to get online without having to pay for a connection.