A study released by Group-IB, a cybersecurity and antipiracy company based in Singapore with offices in Russia and Vietnam says that clandestine funding from criminal networks has sustained a robust global video delivery infrastructure that has exploited geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine to avoid criminal procedings.
Group-IB estimates that that just in March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the sites in this network attracted nearly 80 million visits, 23% of which posed risks to visitors, including malware and viruses.
According to the report, the operation uses hidden pirate CDNs to distribute stolen sports and series video programming through servers in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Even though two such CDNs had been shut down in 2019, by 2020, alternative infrastructure had restored that lost capacity.
The ecosystem is driven by bookmakers and online casinos who advertise on pirate sites, and give those pirate resellers a 20% to 40% cut of the gambling revenue that they attract. Resellers are said to make as much as $22,000 in revenue per month.
Sponsors of these pirate networks even hire and pay talent to record voice-overs in the local languages for the consumer markets where the programming is distributed: in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Portuguese and other languages.
Sites in these networks also serve as platforms for distributing malware and stealing users’ money and personal data.
Details are provided in the full report.
Why it matters
Content and service theft are not the only enablers of piracy. They also need steady funding to keep their servers running, and in this case, depend upon financial partners and payment systems that ‘look the other way.’
This one is particularly sophisticated, with a network of resellers, advertising and clandestine funding; and functions as a full-blown pirate economy.