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Unable to use ionCube Encoder 9 for production

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Josh Abbott



Joined: 08 Feb 2016
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:57 am    Post subject: Unable to use ionCube Encoder 9 for production Reply with quote

Version 9 of the ionCube Encoder was released nearly a year ago. The Encoder itself works perfectly, and ionCube deserves a lot of credit for including some highly innovative security features (such as dynamic keys) to better protect scripts. Unfortunately, I'm still unable to use this version of the Encoder to encode the scripts that I sell to my customers.

The problem is that Encoder 9 requires version 5 of the Loader, and many hosting companies are still providing version 4. cPanel's EasyApache includes version 4.7.5 and many of my customers have hosting providers who are unable or unwilling to manually install the latest Loader, especially when EasyApache automatically reverts it back to 4.7.5 every time it installs security updates for PHP.

I understand that ionCube can't control the version of the Loader that cPanel provides, but the main issue appears to be cPanel's perception that ionCube has been unable to provide a stable version of the latest Loader.

I've brought up the issue in cPanel's forums and their Feature Requests, and their reply was:

Quote:
When we were spinning up the new packages, IonCube had just released 5.x, but were making almost weekly updates that included *MAJOR* bug fixes.


I've been watching the updates that are being made to the ionCube Loaders, and I can understand why cPanel would make this assumption. Version 5 of the Loader was released in April 2015 and didn't appear to stabilize until Oct 2015 with version 5.0.19.

And then in Jan 2016 ionCube released a new update to the Loader, and within one week released 3 additional updates to resolve various issues with that release. While I can't criticize ionCube for continuously improving their products, I don't think January's update should have replaced version 5.0.19 until it had received some testing from actual users.

And then on the 5th of February, I noticed that ionCube released version 5.1.0 of the Loader, almost immediately reverted it back to 5.0.23, and then released 5.1.1 just 2 days later.

I understand that many of these bug fixes have been for the ionCube24 service, and shouldn't affect the stability of the Loader for those who aren't using it. However, cPanel and many hosting providers are not familiar with this distinction, and instead make the assumption that the Loader is simply unstable.

In the future, is it possible for ionCube to divide the Loader releases into different branches, such as "Release" and "Beta", and also have a "Stable" branch for versions of the Loader that have been in the Release branch for a sufficient amount of time? Then hopefully cPanel would be more comfortable packaging up the latest stable version of the Loader whenever they make an update to EasyApache.

I certainly don't want to criticize or discourage ionCube from making updates or adding innovative new features to their products, since I think this is one of the biggest advantages to using ionCube over competing solutions. However, I feel that releasing all the latest updates through a single branch is causing hosting providers to provide obsolete versions of the Loader, when there are more recent stable versions available.
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liaison
ionCube Support


Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 2757

PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Josh

Thanks for your thoughts, and I agree that some providers may not make the best decision with regards to what Loader they provide.

No releases are beta, so a beta and release track is not currently applicable, however a latest/new release track and stable release track is a good idea, where new releases move to stable after a certain amount of time. Most of the updates to 5 have actually been minor, generally affecting a small subset of users, and most relating to new features in ionCube24. The change from 5.1.0 to 5.1.1 for example was because of an undefined symbol that was found in the Linux build for PHP 5.3 and 5.4, but not affecting users with the currently recommended PHP versions for production use, 5.5 and 5.6.

The frequency of Loader releases is going to be greater than has historically been the case for some time to come as a result of new features that are going into ionCube24. Though it might have been less confusing in some respects, we made the decision not to have ic24 as a separate .so file as this would complicate setup for the end user, and what's nice about ionCube24 is that anyone with a Linux v5 Loader has the features ready to use if they choose. It's lightweight and entirely bypassed unless configured, and can be activated easily at any time should they choose to do so.

We see the malware protection in ic24 as a big thing that should be used by any live system as it offers possibly the best protection against intrusion that is available for PHP, but for some, the latest feature of reporting errors might be more important. It's not uncommon for applications to mask errors so that they're never seen in logs, and an application might, for example, be a time bomb and using features that no longer exist in PHP 7 such as the original MySQL library. IC24 reports all errors including hidden ones, so you can tell if you're using an application that is not going to work on PHP 7 via PHP's deprecated warnings. As features are enhanced or new ones are rolled out, some will have associated Loader updates. We carefully indicate which updates are ic24 related so that it is possible to see whether an update is applicable to someone.

We're always looking at anything that makes it easier for users to work with the Loaders, and we'll certainly look at providing a latest and stable option as this offers some clear advantages. Thanks for the suggestion about this.
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liaison
ionCube Support


Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 2757

PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Further to this, both stable and latest (names subject to change) Loaders are now available on our site, so there's no excuse any more for Cpanel to be lagging behind the curve Smile Best for components such as cpanel is to offer end users a choice of Loader as there's a clear need for this, but it's up to Cpanel to decide how they prioritise and respond to end user requirements.
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Josh Abbott



Joined: 08 Feb 2016
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 3:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge my feedback, and for adding a stable tier for the loaders. Hopefully this will encourage cPanel to support newer versions more quickly in the future.

By the way, here is the URL to their feature request on the subject: features.cpanel.net/topic/update-ioncube-to-5-x

I've already voted and left my feedback, but if there are any other users who can help persuade cPanel that the v5 Loader has been well-tested and is safe to implement, I'm sure it will be helpful.
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