The situation is this one: we are a small photo company. We have a few people going out to shoot various assignments. When they return they hand me the memory cards and I download the images into the main storage (a NAS storage for that matter). More computers could access this storage and I have sorted various database issues that could arise. The problem is: some photos are very sensitive, and (as much as I trust my colleagues) I wouldn't like to give them access to download a copy for themselves. However, the editing work volume is overwhelming for me, and I need to find a solution as follows: - a person other than me should have access to work/edit on the photos that reside on the main storage. - that person should not be able to download a copy or delete the orginal image. (I have a good backup system set up, so my main worry is about copying the file).

This means the local USB access is restricted on a user based rights system, and I can set this with no problem. DVD burner is disabled as well. However there is local network access in order to have NAS access rights, but I think I could restrict Internet access. Is there any other way I didn't think of that image files could be copied onto some device?

  • \$\begingroup\$ You'll also want to not allow cell phones or cameras around the editing or viewing stations. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 30, 2014 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about computer security and not photography. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 31, 2014 at 10:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually it is more on-topic for ServerFault. \$\endgroup\$
    – TFuto
    Oct 31, 2014 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TFuto - actually, it is more on-topic for IT Security. Specific implementation configuration is off-topic for Sec.SE. How to build a system and what technologies accomplish a security goal is the entire point of Sec.SE, just so long as it stays away from product recommendations and technical configuration details. Personally, I think it fits fine here though as well. It is also almost certainly a dupe on IT Security. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Oct 31, 2014 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ This can't be done. Plain and simple. You can make it difficult, but you can't make it impossible. \$\endgroup\$
    – tylerl
    Nov 1, 2014 at 4:11

2 Answers 2


I think this question can have better answers in another site, like Security StackExchange. And there you'll get answers that, in the end, will tell you the following: it's impossible. If you really don't want anyone to copy your pictures, you can't let that person touch it.

Then the long answer will be the following:

Security is a matter of trade-off: you trade security, user experience (easy-to-use vs hard to use) and willing to break your protection.

If you're really afraid on what the person can do with the picture, you shouldn't let him take the picture. Because he can take a photo with another camera (and you'll never know if he has used his own equipment, cell phone, so on). And he also can copy those memory cards before handing to you, so you won't event know he has a copy. Everything you try to protect, neglecting this first point, can't be effective, since this would be the first way to circumvent it.

If it's ok for a 2nd person to take the photo, but you don't want that a 3rd one can copy it: you can't let this person have access to it. If he is able to open it on his computer, he can: burn it on a dvd, copy it on a flash drive, upload it to some site, send himself using email, send to anyone using some chat program, hide it inside another photo he has permission to copy (layers on photoshop?), print it, take a picture of his monitor using a cell phone, film the monitor, play it using headphones and then record it using some microphone or the old telephone, copy it like a text, write it down using pencil and paper.

Is that all easy to do? No. Some methods might require internet access, some might require installation of some software, some might take a long time.

And if the person doesn't have access to the picture, but anyhow works for you using some computer in your network? He can install some kind of virus, he can sniff the network, he can attack the NAS... Well, if some of your computer is accessible from internet, the person doesn't even need to work for you or be inside your company.

So, the trade-off is: you can't be sure that the photos are really protected. How hard you want to make it for someone who is trying to copy it? In the case you described, you trust the person (not that trusting really means too much), you just want to make it harder, right?

Give him just a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor. Be sure to make the computer physically unreachable, then you'll need to worry less about cd burner, flash drive access, etc. Then take all the internet access away, so that he can't communicate with the world. Configure your computer so that he can't install any software. Make sure he can't have any electronic device with him, so that he can't take a picture of the monitor. Not only electronics, really: old film cameras are also a problem.

And then be prepared to have some employees leaving your company. When security policies are that strict, including not allowing personal devices, people tend to get upset, bored, and search for happier places.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! You just described some ways I have never even thought of. The last two paragraphs of your answer really sum everything up very well. Making things harder I think should do the trick. Taking photos with the phone or some old camera is a real concern, and I can't restrict access to these. Copying the memory cards after taking the photos is a risk I'm willing to take, because I assume it's quite difficult to do given the short time frames. However I will rethink everything given the new details. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ryder
    Oct 30, 2014 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are software systems that will detect when sensitive files are being accessed and sent externally, some will even intercept the actions in encrypted systems like https. They are frequently used in banks and law firms. Another option is to have good access logs, if users are accessing files they shouldn't or at times they shouldn't then you can deal with the problem. +1 to the advice to ask on security.se btw. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2014 at 10:47

I'm reminded of the candy store clerk fable. The proprietor lets the counter kid eat a bunch on his first day, and after a week he gets sick of it and doesn't mooch at all for all the years he works there. As opposed to another store with stict policy and always chasing the workers out of the stock.

You didn't say why the pictures are sensitive, but they are of interest to random people while special businesses secrets would be more about espionage and you would have described it differently. So I'm supposing porn for the sake of example. Have an account to a safe and high-art site and let them have their fill, and work stuff won't be so enticing.

(Activly studying good art is good for learning how to make it. Certainly true for light, pose, composition, and might be for "editing" as well.)

More general answer: get them to not want to break the rules, rather than combating their tendency to do so. Work on behavior patterns, not specific actions.


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