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Is it technically possible to make a self-destructing video clip, like in the movies?

I just want to make a little player, which would play clip only once and than remove itself from the system. I believe it would be impossible to autoremove completely, so I would have to make player that deletes file after first full view.

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Your question currently can be answered by a Yes/No. Do you actually want something that does this? – slhck Jan 26 '12 at 19:30
yes, I'm looking for this to share info with my colleague, but I don't want him to actually own media that I'm sending. – Sandro Dzneladze Jan 26 '12 at 19:59
The answer is yes AND no. It is possible to for instance send your colleague a program that has the video embedded as a resource and which marks itself for deletion or self-removes the resource. However, your colleaugue will have and endless supply of copies of the video, since it is an attachment in his/her email. – horatio Jan 26 '12 at 20:23
up vote 0 down vote accepted

You could make it unplayable using DRM permissions. Some online stores allows you to download a video with DRM and play it for a period of time.

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Yes. But you need to be aware that this behavior is not intended by the developers of file viewer programs and is seen as malicious, not routine, expected behavior, like shown in some movies.

Bugs in viewer programs for media and document files have been abused for a long time. Maliciously crafted files exploit these bugs to execute other code, that could also delete that file that is being viewed.

If you read about security vulnerabilities e.g. in Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or Adobe Reader, quite often this is what's meant.

The simplest exploit of course is to crash the viewer, but more sophisticated ones are possible, given enough time and/or money to develop them.

This depends, of course, on the exact environment (viewer program and version, OS and version, etc.) the file is viewed on.

Publication of such a file/exploit would likely lead to the security vulnerability being patched.

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OS would be windows of course. – Sandro Dzneladze Jan 26 '12 at 19:23
@SandroDzneladze You will get no help in crafting malicious media files here, if that is what you want. – Daniel Beck Jan 26 '12 at 19:28
I believe it would be pretty easy to pack a self-contained media player (like ffplay) into a standalone executable that would delete a media file after playing it. That would at least be half as bad as writing malicious files. /cc @san – slhck Jan 26 '12 at 19:31
@slhck Some more design work needs to be done though. If you're able to "scroll" through the file or pause, or have any indication how the file has left to play, you can easily just never let it reach the stage where the file would be deleted. You need to probably encrypt the media data to prevent playback otherwise (easier than designing a new codec). – Daniel Beck Jan 26 '12 at 19:34
Daniel, I'm not crafting malicious media file. I just don't want it to be played more than once. – Sandro Dzneladze Jan 26 '12 at 20:03

If you were to roll your own, how about a streaming client that runs only off a proprietary boot cd? That way it could monitor what other processes are running and die if anything unknown (which could be a screen grabber) is also running. Not sure if it could tell if it was being run within a vm, but it should refuse to run if so. The client would stream a limited buffer of data with no pause or rewind control, and would not cache to disk ever.

This could be a stand alone appliance which could be built hard-wired to "melt-down", even literally explode(!), at end of playing.

Can't beat the external camera recording, though. Except maybe with lasers...

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As a stand-alone file this would be very difficult if not impossible for several reasons, the most obvious probably has already been mentioned - that the file could simply be copied, and if it was sent as an email attachment, the recipient would technically already have a copy before it is even played.

If you are able to create a program that interacts with outside resources, you have a few more options. For example, you could create a program that embeds an encrypted video clip, and checks with a database that you control for permission to decrypt the video. You would then design the program to update the database upon the first playing of the video (as a condition of providing the decryption for the first play) to disallow future decryption/playing.

Of course, if your recipient is aware that this is going to happen and wants to keep the video he could use a screen recorder or even an external camera to record the video on the first play. Not much you can do about that really.

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