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How StarForce modifies the player, and how it further reduces a number of hacks

Michael Kalinichenko
Michael Kalinichenko
StarForce Technologies CEO
15 Nov 2018
StarForce CEO Michael Kalinichenko tells a story about how StarForce has been protecting educational courses, as well as about the video player customization.

In modern society, the value of education is very high. Some may assume that knowledge can be obtained only at universities, at the end of which the learning process stops. However, practical experience shows that if a specialist does not improve their skills and deepen their knowledge then it would be hard to compete with others on the labor market. Therefore, continuous training and self-development have become an integral part of professional life. In most professions, you have to relearn, for example, in IT, law, medicine, engineering etc.

Note for information. In programming, C++ language has been changing. In 2011, there was version C++11. The next version, C++14 (ISO C++2014) appeared in 2014. In 2017, yet another version was released (C++17/ISO C++ 2017).

Self-education is the most popular and accessible type of professional development thanks to online courses. There is a huge amount of various resources where you can get new knowledge: the Internet, books, various online courses, trainings, webinars and so on.

Many companies offer educational services in different fields. By the way, the number of intellectual property is rapidly growing worldwide. Actually, intellectual property is the ownership of an innovation, whether it is a commercial product, an artistic creation, a method or formula, e-books, video courses and other materials. It can involve a range of creations, including online courses. All these materials can be easily stolen, copied and transmitted limitlessly through the Internet. In order to prevent that, it is highly recommended to reliably protect them.

We have been receiving a large number of requests for the protection of such content. One of the stories that we would like to tell is about the protection of educational material and customization of the video player requested by one of our clients, Practicum Group. Our collaboration started in 2014, when the company that produces educational programs and video training courses on sales techniques contacted us.

Practicum Group had a goal to protect their educational materials as intellectual property. They wanted to protect all the materials and to structure educational modules in a smart and easy-to-use way. The video should have been made in a corporate style with a company logo and contained a number of additional buttons for navigation through the training modules.

Because the protected files can be opened only by the StarForce video player, the main goal of the company was to customize it. Both StarForce and the customer prepared a statement of work that, besides the modifications to the Player interface, provided for extra functions for effective learning.

The video player before customization

The video player after customization

Adding questions to the project for self-assessment

For the students to learn the material well, we added questions for self-assessment to the project. This means that a video course lasting, for example, 60 minutes may be interrupted by a pop-up with questions that the user has to answer.

The questions refer directly to the viewed material. The company needs it to make sure that the user has learned the material, that is why without the correct answer to certain questions, the learner will not be able to continue to watch the training video.

For example, in one case of an incorrect response, the system makes the user return to the very beginning of the video. In another case, the student returns to the place where the answer to the task is supposedly hidden. If the user answers to the two questions correctly, but gives a wrong answer to the third question, then he/she automatically returns to the material that needs to be revised again. Such solution is convenient enough because any scenarios for the material can be created.

Adding a separate password to each of the sections

The customer’s program consists of several modules. We implemented a function which made each section of the training course password-protected. This function has been added to provide better protection of the product.

How protection of the educational course looked like

Practicum Group organizes training in specially equipped classrooms. Therefore, binding to local server was chosen as a method of video protection. First, a special module is installed on the teacher’s computer. The module controls the number of computers simultaneously connected to the main computer. For example, there are ten computers in the classroom, apart from the teacher’s computer. Students get access to protected video on their computers, and when they try to open educational material, the security system requests the permission to run from the teacher’s computer. If the number of simultaneously connected computers exceeds the specified value, the system rejects additional computers.

To sum up, during four years of working with Practicum Group, we can say that thanks to the customization of the video player, the training video course has become much more easy-to-use for both the creators and the users. Furthermore, the number of hacks of educational materials has decreased over these years. At least, people began to take fewer actions to bypass security. If the user is really interested in the educational materials, he will be ready to pay for it.

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