Steering clear of crafty codecs

The web is a beautiful place isn’t it?

  • You can watch captivating high definition videos on Vimeo of your friends hiking trip through the Swiss alps.
  • You can chat with relatives on the opposite side of the planet using Google Helpouts.
  • You can get breaking news from Twitter, minutes before the major news media outlets receive it.
  • You can buy brand new headphones from Amazon and have it at your door delivered by drones….

Okay the last one is a stretch but at one point Amazon was bandying the idea back and forth.

The gross side of the interwebs…

This is the nice side of the web but everyone knows there is a turbid, darker side of the interwebs and sometimes we unwittingly find ourselves embroiled in places we wish we never visited.

I could tell you how I really feel about the unsavory companies out there that try to trick you into installing malware, but I’ll save my trenchant comments for another day.  The purpose of this post isn’t for you to hear me whine; my purpose is to help you stay protected online.

Crappy codecs abound

Today I want to show you how to avoid the codec chicanery that has swept the web.  The internet is rife with malicious sites that want to steal your personal information, target you with performance hogging ads and infect your computer with virulent files masquerading as legitimate codecs.

Crappy codes are the bane of the internet.

It’s appalling that there are people out there who try to exploit your ignorance for selfish gain.  It really pisses me off to see innocent people become victims of malware.

Go to the source

So check this out: I’m going to arm you with one tip, one piece of sage advice that will give you an edge up on the duplicitous dolts who are waiting for you to click the wrong link.

Only download video codecs from the source site

What does that mean?

Let’s say you want to watch TV from the office, your hotel, a friends apartment or the airport. You hit up Google and since you’re feeling lucky, you click the first link in the search results.

Some people have the fallacious thinking that since a site shows up first in the Google search engine results page, it must automatically be the best one out there.  I mean, how else would that site claim the coveted number one seat for those keywords?

People erroneously equate a top PageRank with a top review.

But just because a page appears first doesn’t mean it’s credible.  The bottom line is that there are a bunch of specious and suspicious sites on the Google front page and we need to forsake the false notion that great SEO is tantamount to great site quality.

Watching live streaming TV

So let’s click the link…

How to outsmart the bad guys

Now I want you to pay very close attention to a few things here.

We’re going to play detective.  What’s wrong with this site?

Can you spot it?

Fake Codecs to beware of

Let’s start from the top:

First of all, the download bar in the bottom of the browser is fake.

The Chrome download bar never looks like this.

Through some meretricious HTML code and javascript programming, the authors of this website created their own download bar which is actually an image link to malware.

But how did I know that?

Let’s compare and contrast the download bars in Chrome and IE11.

This is what the download bar looks like in Internet Explorer 11.

Internet Explorer 11 download bar

And this is what the download bar looks like in Google Chrome version 38 (the latest at the time I’m writing this).

Google Chrome download bar

So then what’s going on with our video streaming site?

We’ll if you look at the source code of the page, you can see the authors simply took an 728×90 image screenshot of a real Internet Explorer download bar, replaced the text and buttons in an image editing program and then used Javascript to load the image at the bottom of the browser at load time.

From the screenshot below you can see the image is called expplugin_728x90_en.png

Dissecting fake download bars

Yeah, this is the kind of crap we have to deal with these days?

Isn’t this messed up?

Incidentally, you can see this for yourself.  In Chrome, just right click any page element that looks weird and choose Inspect Element.  Then in the bottom part of the browser you can see the exact internet address of any links or element type.

If the image link goes to dropbox.com or something like that then you should be on guard.

Google Chrome developer tools

It might be hard to see at first because there’s a lot of stuff in Developer Tools; however, if you’re circumspect, you can become a great detective in fighting the malware slime on the web.

Messed up.

So what’s going on near the top of the browser?

Fake Chrome bar

It says you need to install a FireFox Plugin to watch free HD.

So let me get this straight, I’m using Google Chrome but I need to install an Firefox plugin, in Chrome, to watch this high definition video?  How does that work?

It doesn’t work.  Do you know what my response is to that?

Bullshit.

You don’t need it.  stream2watch.me should be chagrined for importuning users with this retarded popup.

All modern browsers come with native support for two of the biggest video codecs:

  • Adobe Flash
  • HTML5 Video

Chrome has Flash and HTML5 video support baked into the browser. And the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera all support HTML5 video.

If you must get flash, never download it from the site that is offering you a video stream.  Ignore the annoying “Your Flash Player is out of date” messages.  I know it’s tempting to click and go; however, most of these sites aren’t looking out for your best interests and will infect you when they can.

The only place you should ever download Adobe Flash from is: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/.

Incidentally, you don’t need to download a separate HTML 5 video player; all the major browsers have support already.  For example, if you visit Youtube from Chrome, and right click a video, you can see it’s using an HTML5 video player not flash.

HTML 5 video player in Google Chrome

If you want to watch live streaming TV go to http://abc.go.com/watch-live or http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/watch-live-tv.  Many cable providers and TV channels let you watch live streaming TV online so always check those sites out first before googling for goodies.

I hope this helps you stay safe!

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Posted in Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 10, Internet Explorer 9, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari, Web Browsers, Windows, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with: , ,