In a society increasingly aware of privacy and cybersecurity issues, businesses and individuals engaged in live streaming need to understand how these issues impact their streams. As live streaming grows in popularity, the risks associated with it also grow. The risks are multiple: sharing of personal information, cyber attacks, data breaches, unauthorized distribution of content, and more. Responsible live streamers will make an effort to understand these issues and take proactive measures to protect themselves and their audience.
This article will take a deep dive into the privacy and security concerns associated with live streaming, to provide you with the tools you need to keep everyone involved safe. We’ll discuss the types of threats, best practices to avoid them, and any legal implications that may exist. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to provide a more trustworthy environment for your viewers.
Privacy concerns in live streaming
Failure to maintain proper privacy and security has implications for both the live streamer and the audience. The streamer could lose revenue if the content is shared without authorization. They could also suffer financial loss, damage to their reputation, or legal liability if private information is leaked. Members of your audience who have given you personal information are also entrusting you to keep that safe.
Collection of personal information
Gaining access to a live stream often requires viewers to provide personal information, such as names, email addresses, and payment information. While this information has a variety of uses that help you provide your viewers with a great experience, it can also be a significant risk to privacy and security. Any information obtained from viewers should be adequately protected.
Public access to live streams
Live streams are often viewable by anyone. This means that any personal information exposed during the stream will be available to the public. Extra care must be taken not to reveal information that shouldn’t be released. This can range from accidentally leaving a banking tab open on a browser or forgetting that the public at large is viewing and getting too personal while talking.
Unauthorized sharing and distribution of live streams
Some live streams are intended for a limited audience. This may be members of a particular company or organization, or it may be paying customers. Regardless, access control of live streams can be difficult. Once the stream is published, it’s relatively easy for anyone to record it and share it without your consent. This further highlights the need for discretion, even when you think the audience is limited.
Security concerns in live streaming
The security threats faced by live streams expand the risks associated with privacy protection issues. When there’s a data breach, any private information obtained could be made public. Payment information could be obtained and used for fraudulent purposes that put the live streamer and their audience in financial jeopardy.
Wherever there’s a platform that stores sensitive information, especially payment data, there’s the possibility of a cyber-attack. Criminals who want to obtain that information for fraudulent purposes may attempt to gain access to the site through hacking or exploitation of other security flaws. Additionally, denial-of-service attacks can be launched against a stream in an effort to shut it down.
Although data breaches may come from cyber attacks, they aren’t the only potential source of leaked data. Human error, such as lost or stolen devices can lead to data that was meant to be private getting leaked to the public. Although rare, such information can even be leaked intentionally by someone wishing to do the live streamer harm.
Malware and viruses
A special form of cyber attack comes in the form of malware or viruses. Cybercriminals can use malicious links, vulnerabilities in the streaming platform, and other methods to infect the personal computers of live stream viewers. Now, not only is the data provided to the live streamer at risk, but any data stored on their personal devices as well.
How to protect yourself and your audience
Although there are plenty of threats out there that can put you and your audience at risk, there are also numerous steps you can take to mitigate those risks. From choosing the right providers to following best security practices, you can create a live streaming environment that’s safe for you and your viewers alike. Some of the most common techniques used to keep live streams secure are listed below:
- Secure payment systems – If you charge for admission to your live streams, you should only work with established payment providers who have a reputation for security. Never store a viewer’s payment information on your own server or on the live streaming platform itself. The payment information should be stored and accessed only through the payment provider’s interface.
- Digital rights management (DRM) – If you charge for your live stream, you can use DRM solutions to protect it from unauthorized sharing. These tools encrypt your stream and make it difficult for anyone who isn’t authorized to view it to play the file.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs) – A VPN can help secure your live stream in a couple of ways. First, they provide encryption of the data, which makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to intercept your stream. Second, they can help mitigate any attempted denial-of-service attacks by routing requests through different servers.
- Two-factor authentication – One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to get access to your users’ information is to get access to your account. From there, they can log in as you and get access to anything you could. Setting up two-factor authentication makes it significantly more difficult for unauthorized people to gain access to your account.
- Best practices for password management – Even with two-factor authentication in place, you still need to maintain best practices when choosing a password. Avoid using common words or patterns that can be easily guessed. Most browsers now have features in place that will tell you if your passwords have been subject to a breach. If they have, you should change those passwords on any other site that uses them.
Best practices for privacy and security in live streaming
The technical steps listed above aren’t the only way to keep your live stream private and secure. In fact, they’re only one-half of the equation. Whether you’re a solo operation or a member of a large team, creating a culture of security is the best way to get caught by surprise by unwanted risk. Following the best practices below will round out your threat avoidance strategy:
- Training employees and content creators – Reading this article is a good first step to training yourself on the potential risks associated with live streaming. Further reading will help refine your knowledge, and passing on whatever you learn to everyone else associated with the live stream will prevent them from becoming a security liability.
- Developing a security plan – You never want to get caught by surprise when a security threat arises. By identifying potential security risks and developing a plan to address them, you’ll be prepared when they arrive. The plan should contain procedures and guidelines for handling each threat, as well as assign roles and responsibilities for doing so.
- Conducting regular risk assessments – A security plan shouldn’t be a static document. The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving, and you should evolve with it. By regularly assessing security threats you’ll be able to keep your security policies and procedures up to date and adapt to any new threats that arise.
- Monitoring for security breaches – We mentioned above that you should keep an eye out for breaches involving passwords that you use to login to your live streaming accounts. You should do the same for breaches that impact the platforms you use to provide your streams. Occasionally, live stream platforms or payment processors are hit with data breaches. Keeping an eye out for these can give you an early start on whatever mitigation actions may be required.
- Responding to security incidents – If an incident does occur, you should get to work as quickly as possible to minimize its impact on you and your viewers. After the situation is evolved, you should use at as a learning experience. What allowed the incident to occur in the first place? How can similar incidents be avoided in the future? Security indents are bad, but if you can learn from them they’ll help you be more secure in the future.