At IBC 2022, Piracy Monitor got updates about the piracy services now available to serve pirates, and some simple ways to counteract them. Piracy is now available as a service, just as video platforms are available to legitimate distributors.
Hosting pirates serve content aggregators, which in turn serve individual pirates who deliver services to consumers. It’s a multi-layered distribution framework, delivered from the cloud.
Early piracy methods
In earlier days, pirates who wanted content would insert IP addresses of legitimate media resources, so pirates could penetrate servers and download content from them. It was more of a cottage industry than it was an industrial pursuit. Pirates who wanted to create demand would use automation (scripts) to scrub databases purchased from illegal sources for media accounts that work, and resell those accounts.
New models: Piracy for hire
Gone are the days when the proverbial 15-year-old in the basement puts up a streaming server and a Web page, and voila, is in business. Today’s pirates offer thousands of programs, hundreds of channels, time-shifted TV (cloud DVR, catch-up and start-over services). They look very professional and they even offer end user technical support. Many of them attempt to capture advertisers through legitimate channels; others steal legitimate advertising from programmatic channels.
They’ve become turnkey services. And, once the service is set up, stolen accounts are re-sold to enable new subscribers to access the pirate service.
Now, experts and resources are available to do pretty much anything for a pirate on a contract basis. If a pirate wants DRM hacked, to get content in the clear,” someone is available for hire. In fact, one source reported instances of pirates hiring experts to put DRM in place for them, so other pirates couldn’t steal content from them.
Pirates can subscribe to services that are hosted on pirate platforms in the cloud, and check off the features that they desire. “Give me this service,” and they set it up.
Simple ways to fight industrialized piracy
When Netflix announced earlier this year that it would begin to charge consumers for account sharing, video providers saw it as an opportunity to get smarter about detecting it. Technologies are now available to help video providers monetize shared accounts.
Using analytics, video providers can now determine whether a shared account was being used by a family member, versus being an account that has been stolen and re-sold. For example, if a shared account is always being accessed via VPN, it may be suspicious.
They can also detect concurrency that breaks limits for how many users are on an account, and take action. One way is to stop access for the suspected share recipient and prompt them to reset their passwords. Only an authorized user with a password on file would be allowed back in. Or, the usage patterm for a shared user that was actually granted permission by the account owner might prompt the video provider to present them with a family plan or an introductory offer to open their own account.
Basic usage management
Often, video providers need not turn to new anti-piracy technologies to apply effective countermeasures. One example is key rotation. If the operator automatically rotates keys at a regular and frequent interval, rather than leaving one key in place forever, it will limit the amount of time that the asset or service is exposed for use and reduces the likelihood that a useable key can fall into the hands of a thief.
Why it matters
Consumer demand for piracy is beyond question: the fragmentation of the media industry that has resulted in today’s plethora of media services, and economic circumstances have driven consumers to reduce the number of services that they take. This has only accelerated in regions like Europe, as a result of the Ukraine war and its impact on energy and supply chains.
Detection of fraudulent use can also be applied to other servicees, like social media, or text messaging within game play. If a monitoring or analytics platform can keep statistics about sessions, such as IP addresses, duration of use, location and so on, irrespective of the channel of distribution, it can present a video provider with data that it in turn an use to apply the countermeasures that it deems to be appropriate or permitted by regulation.