Taking Targeted Action Against Piracy: Four Steps

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By Mark Mulready, VP Cyber Services, Irdeto

Pirates who steal video entertainment, desired sports content and video games grow more prolific and persistent with each passing day. And their methods are getting increasingly sophisticated. Rights holders and content owners can no longer afford to be complacent about their security. The only way to combat this constant onslaught of attacks is a state of constant vigilance.

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Keep digging until you hit the roots

Video entertainment producers and distributers are eager to protect their work. So, they often hire agencies to scan social media platforms, websites, cyberlockers and hosting sites for pirated content, which they then promptly remove. While this may help slow down pirates, it’s certainly not going to stop them. It’s important to get to the root of the issue: why is content being pirated? Who is involved? What solution can help prevent this? Is there legal action that can be taken? Only then can you put systems in place that stop the hacks before they start, and get on the right track to preventing them in the future.

An effective form of protection is watermarking: a unique signature embedded into a video to enable security teams to trace the leaked content back to the source that enabled the piracy and take corrective steps to address it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

But operators should also be thinking about additional levels of protection. Like improving Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology that is becoming increasingly easy for pirates to circumvent. Or implementing robust geofencing and geoblocking to quell distribution that starts with an access request from an unauthorized region. Tokenization can protect video entertainment just as it protects valuable payment data, if Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) use it to protect their streams.

Four simple steps towards more secure systems

Protecting your content, brand and investments from piracy and meeting premium content security requirements may seem like a major challenge. But there are four simple steps you can take to get started.

  1. Ensure the basics are in place. This begins with your company’s collective mindset. Every level of your organization should make cybersecurity a priority. Then, as you explore all of the points of connectivity that make up your business, you can deploy the essential technology that secures your platforms and content.
  2. Understand the threats and define the strategy. This begins with robust threat intelligence: gather, categorize, and prioritize potential risks and vulnerabilities based on the severity of the risk they pose. Then set up systems to detect, infiltrate and monitor hacking and piracy attempts. Finally, perform attack surface management and penetration testing to ensure your networks are as secure as possible from attacks.
  3. Build towards a complete and secure solution. Once the basics are covered, you can continue towards advanced security and anti-piracy technology and additional layers of defense. Streaming services and pay-per-view providers, for example, should strongly monitor and reduce credential sharing.
  4. Plan and prepare for the future. Pirates never sleep. And neither should your security efforts. Keep constant watch to prevent leaks, breaches and attacks at all levels. Embrace a continuous system of identification, protection, detection, response and recovery. Only continuous monitoring can help you prevent breaches before they happen.

Stay one step ahead of the trends

It’s also important to track and adapt to consumer behavior. We know that, when it comes to content, consumers are looking for three things to work in their favor: cost, content and convenience. Music piracy all but disappeared when the right streaming formula was found to balance these three elements. Why would anyone need to steal music – and risk viruses and scams – when an affordable, stable and secure streaming service is available?

In video entertainment and sports, this transition has been a bit more challenging. The explosion of streaming services more than satisfies the consumer’s demand for content. But content is spread over so many platforms that cost and convenience suffer. The future consumer will be looking for a way to consolidate all those subscriptions and services into a convenient, cost-effective, super-aggregated system that tailors content to them. They won’t even mind advertising, as long as those ads are also tailored to their needs.

Contribute to the global crackdown

From the United States to Europe to Malaysia, governments are introducing legislation to help in the fight against piracy and to increase cybersecurity in general. And law enforcement agencies are banding together to take down pirates who operate in multiple countries and jurisdictions. INTERPOL’s US$3.1 million INTERPOL Stop Online Piracy (I-SOP) initiative is a prime example of cross-border collaboration. But this also drives pirates to operate in countries where no such legislation is in place. They simply avoid prosecution by circumventing the countries that implement it.

This is where the industry can come together to turn the tide. Join your local lobbying or trade association. Contribute to law enforcement investigations and ramp up prosecution of offenders. When the entire industry raises its voice in protest against bad actors, governments and law enforcement will answer the call with the support we need to enable legal and financial repercussions for prolific pirates.

We know two things for certain: none of us can stop piracy on our own, and there’s no silver bullet to stopping piracy. It takes the collective effort of the entire industry. From conscientious and vigilant content producers and operators to security and anti-piracy experts. And from local law enforcement and lobbying to global collaboration. While we currently may be living in the Age of the Pirate, industry players have the power in their hands to bring them down and keep them from returning.


Mark Mulready, Vice President of Cyber Services, Irdeto

Mark leads the strategic direction, global delivery and management of Cyber Services for sports rights owners, broadcasters/operators, games publishers and other verticals. In addition to managing a global team of analysts, investigators and product management experts, Mark oversees the marketing activities for the Irdeto Cyber Services team.

Mark was previously the Fraud & Operational Security Manager at Foxtel and also served 16 years in New South Wales Police Service including special assignments in the Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Crime Authority and 3 years as a Prosecutor.

Mark holds a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong and was admitted as a Solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2004. He is currently Vice President for the leading pan-European industry association – AAPA. (http://www.aapa.eu/ )

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