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Apple’s Mac App Store already facing piracy threats, still manages to top a million downloads

It took the Mac App Store just one day to rack up over one million downloaded apps, and considerably less time time for hackers to crack the store’s digital rights management (DRM) technology.

The Mac App Store launched yesterday and features a range of third-party developed apps as well as Apple apps that include the popular programs iPhoto, Garageband, and Aperture 3.

Apple designed the store to make use of DRM encryption to eliminate the risks of apps being pirated and distributed illegally. And yet, the Mac App Store was not even 24-hours old before hackers started claiming to have found away to beat Apple’s DRM protection.

Some of the “hacks” are relatively simple. A set of instructions posted yesterday, detail how to use the validation files from the free Twitter app to run the full version of Angry Birds without paying for it. The instructions say that the method can be used to crack other apps as well.

But according to John Gruber of the Apple-centric blog Daring Fireball, the file-swap “hack” will only work with apps that have not followed Apple’s app validation guidelines. “For apps that follow Apple’s advice on validating App Store receipts, this simple technique will not work. But, alas, it appears that many apps don’t perform any validation whatsoever, or do so incorrectly, like Angry Birds,” Gruber said.

It’s likely developers will get their apps properly validated once they see the downside of not following Apple’s guidelines, but that may entail re-releasing apps and that could take sometime.

Other hacks may be more difficult for Apple and developers to deal with. A hacker, who goes by the handle Dissident, claims to have developed a program called Kickback that will allow any Mac App Store app to be pirated. However, the program won’t be released until February. Dissident’s reasons for the delay were quoted in a Gizmodo article:

“We don’t want to release kickback as soon as the [Mac App] Store gets released. I have a few reasons for that.

Most of the applications that go on the Mac App Store [in the first instance] will be decent, they’ll be pretty good. Apple isn’t going to put crap on the App Store as soon as it gets released. It’ll probably take months for the App Store to actually have a bunch of crappy applications and when we feel that it has a lot of crap in it, we’ll probably release Kickback.

So we’re not going to release Kickback until well after the store’s been established, well after developers have gotten their applications up. We don’t want to devalue applications and frustrate developers.”

The announcement of the hack was first reported in late December and it’s not clear how hackers were able to crack the Mac App Store’s DRM technology well before the store’s launch.

Apple may have indirectly contributed to demand for pirated Mac apps. The Cupertino-based company chose to not allow developers to offer the free “lite” and trial versions of paid apps that it currently permits in its iOS App Store, forcing developers to choose between releasing either full paid versions or entirely free apps. That could potentially add to the number of users who may consider pirating apps rather than risk paying full price without having a chance to try beforehand.

Despite the piracy and hacking, Apple announced today that the Mac App Store achieved over one million downloads in its first day of being open for business. “We’re amazed at the incredible response the Mac App Store is getting,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a release.  “Developers have done a great job bringing apps to the store and users are loving how easy and fun the Mac App Store is.”