Beware before watching that video on YouTube as your viewing history and other internet video platforms can be tracked, suggesting that video encryption is not as secure as we once thought, warns a study. According to researchers, gaps in YouTube’s encryption enable both government intelligence agencies, hackers and internet marketers to determine videos you watched. Intelligence agencies could access this technology for tracking terrorists or other suspicious individuals. Despite YouTube’s attempts to safeguard user anonymity, intelligence agencies, hackers and online advertising companies can still determine which videos a user is watching. Ran Dubin from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s department of communication systems engineering in Israel presented this research at the Black Hat Europe meeting in London.
“We built a simple yet robust machine-learning algorithm that can identify which video you watched — within a predetermined set of videos — with a high degree of accuracy,” said Dubin. “The algorithm is based on an in-depth study of how video services work, how video content is encoded and how a video player requests information to play it,” Dubin added. The algorithm is based on an in-depth study of how video services work, how video content is encoded and how a video player requests information to play it Dubin was able to us this algorithm to determine if someone had watched a specific video from a set of suspicious, terror-related videos.
While this information could be helpful, Dubin warns the average YouTube users to be aware that their viewing history on YouTube and other internet video platforms can be tracked. “Google, YouTube’s parent company, is not likely to patch the gaps, since it would be prohibitively expensive to create a traffic obfuscation mechanism for every user’s every video request,” Dublin expressed. “While internet service providers want to ensure they are providing high quality streaming, encryption has made accessing information much more challenging,” Dubin explained.