Online Video, CODECS, and Security

October 21, 2008

Watching video on a computer is a very popular thing to do these days. Lot’s of people go to places like YouTube to watch videos. You can watch TV shows on line as well as news video. Something else many people are doing these days is downloading video to watch on their PC. Home Theater PC’s are very popular too. You can turn A PC into a full fledged home theater with DVR functionality.

But as with all things relating to computers these days, there is a danger with online video that you need to be aware of.

To save space on web servers and to save bandwidth on the internet, video is stored in a compressed format. There are many different types of compressed formats. When you watch a video, the video has to be UN-compressed for you to view it. This DE-compression is done by something called a CODEC. There are many different kinds of CODEC’s for all of the different video formats. Windows comes with a few CODECs, but not very many. At some point when you are trying to view a video, you may get a message that you don’t have the required CODEC to view the video. And that’s where the danger is.

A CODEC is a program and a program can contain a virus. So don’t go downloading CODECS from just anywhere. Here are our recommendations:

  1. Only use main stream players to play video. These include Windows Media Player, Apple Quicktime, Real Player, WinAmp, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Shockwave, VLC Video Player, and Media Player Classic are the players that are generally safe to use.
  2. If you get a message telling you that you don’t have the right CODEC or if you get a message that says to click here to download the correct CODEC, don’t do it.
  3. If you are in need of a CODEC, the best and easiest fix is to download a CODEC pack. A CODEC pack is a collection of a bunch of different CODECS, all in one package. A safe place to get CODECS is free-codecs.com. Here is a list of good CODEC packs.  K-Lite Mega Codec Pack, XP Codec Pack, and Vista Codec Package.
And, as always, make sure you have up to date anti-virus and anti-spyware protection.

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