Emily Vickery in Alabama reports via a tweet that her IT department is telling her VoiceThread “is a security threat because it searches for open ports to use.” That is a new one for me. I can understand IT departments blocking peer-to-peer file sharing software programs which search for open ports, but a digital storytelling application like VoiceThread? P2P programs certainly can bring a wealth of windows-based malware onto your network, but I’ve never heard of anyone downloading or obtaining any type of malware by using the VoiceThread website.

Emily, my recommendation for your ensuing conversations with the IT department would be to ask if the concern over port searching is malware? If it is (which seems most likely) I would explain to and show the IT department that VoiceThread is not a P2P program and file transfers to and from the site are very limited. Users can upload images and video to use, and users can view images, video, as well as text comments and hear audio narration. The only file downloads from the VoiceThread site as far as I know are the “archival VoiceThreads” which can be downloaded as QuickTime files for offline playback.

I would hypothesize the port searching which VoiceThread does is for webcam video support. I do not think the standard photo upload and voice recording/commenting functionality requires additional ports to utilize beyond the standard port 80 for web content. I could be wrong on this, however.

The IT department may have concerns about users being able to upload audio and video comments, and if they are insistent about that “lack of control” being the real issue why they are blocking VoiceThread.com then you might consider having your school pay for an account on ed.voicethread.com. That is a controlled environment in which all users are registered and accountable, both teachers and students.

Has anyone else run into this same situation with your IT department when it comes to using (or trying to use) VoiceThread? For those of you in IT departments or leading IT departments, what are your thoughts on this situation?

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  • http://voicethread.com Steve Muth

    Hi All,

    I just wanted to assure everybody that VoiceThread’s platform is not security threat and that not all applications that search for a network port to connect through are malicious:) Here is a brief explanation of what the ‘searching’ is about. VoiceThread uses Adobe’s Flash web browser plug in to enable audio/video recording and so our server is trying to establish a reliable connection with the web browser in your school. In an effort to be as reliable as possible it searches for an open port: port 1935 and port 80. These ports are only used to enable audio and video comment recording. If port 80 was not open, you would not be able to load the site. If port 1935(preferred) is not open, the Voicethread site can also do audio and video recording over port 80 (which is why it checks both). Apologies if it seems technical, I just want to assure everybody there’s nothing unusual going on, any Flash based recording application will be doing the exact same thing(if it’s trying to be as reliable and accessible as possible:)

    Thanks,

    -Steve

  • asha
  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Thanks for the clarifications Steve. Hopefully this info is helpful to Emily and others who are negotiating with their IT departments to permit access to VoiceThread. Is this info linked on the VoiceThread blog or website anywhere. I know that Skype has some info posted for IT folks and others on firewalls, it might be good to have a page similar to this for VoiceThread.

  • http://voicethread.com Steve Muth

    Here you go, VoiceThread’s guide to firewalls and network configuration, http://tinyurl.com/6zlds8
    It’s intended for networking folks so please forgive the technical language:)

    Thanks,

    -Steve

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Awesome Steve, thanks so much. This technical language is just what is needed in these types of discussions with IT departments. This is very helpful.

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