If you stream videos a lot using your desktop browser, you would know that Chrome browser is the best for streaming videos. Forget all the noise about battery saving features. Chrome beats all other browsers as a media player. It is so good it is very easy to rip streaming video from any site to watch later. But sites like Netflix, have made it their business to make it impossible to download streaming videos from their sites.
However, according to a report from Wired, two researchers have discovered a way to exploit the Chrome browser to rip any video even from Netflix. How is that important you might ask?
Businesses like Netflix, in conjunction with major Hollywood studios are always fighting an unending battles to stop pirates from selling their films illegally. What pirates do is to download these films or shows from the Internet, then burn them onto DVD’s to be sold around the profit for a huge profit. None of that money goes back to original owners of the downloaded files.
Producers lose a lot of money from these activities making them hamstrung in terms of paying the artists the money they deserve. Pirates are the number one problem of the industry. So for a browser like Chrome to have such an exploit that could be utilized to aid piracy is bad news for legit businesses.
So to prevent this sort of thing from happening, Hollywood and online video streaming companies make it mandatory for browsers to have some sort of codes that makes it difficult for pirates to download streaming videos. The operative word is ‘difficult’ because these measures are hardly ever foolproof. From time to time, pirates find ways to bypass these anti-copying measures.
And that is exactly what happened to the latest discovery in Chrome browser. A way has being found to copy streaming videos easily. Fortunately, the exploit was discovered by hackers of the white hat variety. The two hackers (also known as security researchers to be politically correct), David Livshits of Ben-Gurion University in Israel and Alexandra Mikityuk of Telekom Innovation Labs in Berlin reported the problem to Google about a month ago.
The report to Google also came with a proof of concept, complete with video evidence, to show how easily streaming videos can be copied using Google’s Chrome. But up till now, Google is yet to fix the problem. The questions that throws up are legion, but we would just ask just a few
- Is it that Google are finding it difficult to fix the problem one month after the exploit was reported to them?
- Or perhaps, Google does not consider the problem big enough to bother fixing it
- And if the last question is an affirmative, does it mean Google do not care about the reputation of one of their flagship products?
There are so many ancillary questions attached to the three above. But the bottom line is, it is a serious concern that Google is allowing a clearly identified bug to remain in Chrome.
As for the two researchers, you can be sure that there work should get them some reward from Google’s bounty program. And the reward should be substantial since Google increased the prize money in the bounty program.
For now, nobody besides the two hackers and the Google engineers know how to use the exploit to copy streaming videos from Chrome. But apparently, it is very easy if you know how.
Here is a piece from the wired article explaining how the Chrome exploit works:
The problem is with the implementation of a digital management system called Widevine, which Google owns but did not create. It uses encrypted media extensions to allow the content decryption module in your browser to communicate with the content protection systems of Netflix and other streaming services to deliver their encrypted movies to you. EME handles the key or license exchange between the protection systems of content providers and a CDM component in your browser. When you choose a protected movie to play, the CDM sends a license request to the provider through the EME interface and receives a license in return, which allows the CDM to decrypt the video and send it to your browser player to stream the decrypted content.
A good DRM system should protect that decrypted data and only let you stream the content in your browser, but Google’s system lets you copy it as it streams. The point at which you can hijack the decrypted movie is right after the CDM decrypts the film and is passing it to the player for streaming.”
photo credit: Wikipedia; techworm.net; BBC; gizmaag.com