The Truth About Secure Online Streaming

  • Posted on Tuesday, May 6, 2014

If someone really wants your media, they will find a way to get it one way or another. You can't stop it completely. Many people struggle to accept this fact but it's the truth.

With the new S3Bubble service we currently only offer Progressive Streaming with the Plugin and we now offer secure RTMP streaming. Progressive Streaming is not the most secure method and is what YouTube use.  However, you can build it behind payment gateways making it harder for individuals to steal your media, but not impossible.

We will soon be offering Theme’s for premium members which will include more secure measures and RTMP streaming.  If security is a priority for you please look out for our future updates.

Progressive Download

If you're using a simple embedded media player such as Windows Media or Quicktime to play a file via progressive download, you don't have much protection. The user only has to look at the HTML code to see the location of the video file and access it directly. There are a few things you can do to make it harder for the thief:

Place the embedding code in an external JavaScript file, this places the file's location a little further away from the HTML but it's still easy enough to find.  Write the JavaScript code in such a way that it's not immediately obvious where the file is. This way the thief would need some knowledge of JavaScript to find the location.

A better option is to use Flash video, this way you can create a SWF file as the video player and have the video file location hidden inside the SWF file.  Unfortunately, even if you completely hide the video file location from the thief, all progressive download video still has one significant problem: The file is always downloaded to the user's computer. All the thief has to do is find the file on their hard drive (e.g. in their temporary internet files folder). That's why this delivery method is inherently open to theft.

RTMP Streaming

If you want any real level of security you need to use a true streaming server. The big advantage here is that the file is not actually downloaded to the user's computer—it is seen only as a real-time stream and there is no file left on the user's hard drive.

RTMP EXAMPLE

[s3bubbleRtmpVideoJs bucket="s3bubble.cloudfront.example" track="Orion_SM.mp4" aspect="16:9" autoplay="false" download="false" cloudfront="ERCJI46B3QVMQ"/]

Streaming video provides fairly good protection. It will stop most casual thieves dead—only those with determination and a bit of technical understanding will continue to try and steal the video.

The most common method of stealing streaming video is to use a video stream capture tool. This is an application that captures a video stream and saves it as a file. This type of theft is extremely difficult to guard against. Although there may be some defences, e.g. denying access to known capture utilities.

Even if the thief can't capture the stream directly, they can always use a screen capture utility. This is an application that captures whatever is displayed on screen. They can define a certain area or window (i.e. the video screen), play the video and tell the utility to capture it.

Anyone can set up a video camera and point it at a computer monitor. Anyone with a few clues can remove flicker and get a reasonable result. There is absolutely no way you can stop them from doing this. Although it's a very uncommon way to steal video, it's a good illustration of the fact that thieves always have one more option than the webmaster.

HLS EXAMPLE
[s3bubbleHlsVideoJs bucket="irelands3bubble" track="hlstutorial/amaster.m3u8" aspect="16:9" autoplay="false" comments="facebook" /]

HLS streaming which is what Netflix and Amazon Prime video use you encode your video into 10 second chunks which the player will stream at different bitrates depending on internet connection, again too much to explain in a email but similar to when your Netflix stream pixellates.

Summary

Of course, while streaming video will stop most people, those who are particularly determined and have some tech knowledge will carry on with their attempts to steal your media.  Here at S3Bubble, we work incredibly hard to update and increase our security measures, to protect your files.  However, if you videos or images online they are open to theft.  We can not promise that you will never experience your digital files being stolen.

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