By Steven Hawley
UEFA and a group of rights-holders for European football – including FIFA, the AFC, the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, LFP and the Premier League – released a 158-page technical report this week, which details how the Saudi-based video pirate beoutQ acquires and redistributes pirated video content to a beoutQ-branded set-top box. beoutQ had been redistributing content through both IP video and satellite distribution channels. At the time of this writing, the satellite piracy had been interrupted but the streaming piracy continued.
Three apps that run in the box provide access to nearly 9,200 live TV channels that are normally available only by paid subscription to legitimate services. While no association was identified between beoutQ and these three apps, the content coming through them is branded as that of beoutQ. Additional apps found in the beoutQ store include HBO Go, Spotify, TED, YouTube, Red Bull and others.
The Android TV-based hybrid IP-satellite set-top box used by beoutQ leverages fully legitimate resources and reflects a high degree of technical sophistication. It was designed to work only within the Middle East, and sources its video programming through two specifically-designated Arabsat transponders that target the Middle East and North Africa. The first-use process includes hardware firmware updates, software updates to the three apps, tests to confirm access to video services, updates to EPG and video source addresses, and user setup.
The report was prepared by a security provider, MarkMonitor, which was commissioned by the sports leagues to research and write it. Tests analyzed in the report were conducted during the first calendar quarter of 2019.
Why it’s significant
One industry source who is close to this situation, when asked to comment about the report and the information it contained, noted that it was a “virtual pirate’s cookbook” with more technical detail than most would choose to expose in a public forum. But now that it’s been widely reported (by The New York Times, the BBC, and others), it’s part of the public record and too late to edit or pull back.
Surely the decision to release this must have been carefully considered by all of the parties beforehand and not done casually; further underscoring the gravity of video piracy, which damages the interests of rights-holders, legitimate video distributors and advertisers while undermining consumer trust.
One of the most powerful tools in the fight against video piracy is information that creates awareness, and this report is certainly rich with that; detailing how beoutQ leveraged combinations of legitimate and illegal channels to obtain, package, and re-distribute legitimate content illegally; as well as the technical methods and tactics it used. Legitimate video providers can use the report as a roadmap to help them understand how pirates think, and to help identify the appropriate countermeasures.