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Q&A: Rinat Burdo, Synamedia

Rinat Burdo, Video Security Product Manager at Synamedia, talks about the changing nature of the piracy threat in the age of streaming and how to combat it.

How is piracy changing?

Video piracy today is not just about hacking the CA/DRM, because clear video can be easily extracted from end-point devices via HDMI port, and redistributed over the Internet, rather than being restricted to the TV service footprint. Piracy exploits the same market trends that drive the online video ecosystem. Pirates use internet infrastructure, streaming technologies, online market places, and connected client platforms to make their services accessible on a global scale. To obfuscate their activities pirates exploit online identities, and hide behind legitimate platforms while avoiding regional anti-piracy regulation. Piracy leverages the behavioural norms of the internet economy, where people expect to get content for free, and share without perceiving their actions as criminal.

There have been some high-profile cases in the news recently around streaming piracy. How can OTT providers combat the growing threat from these types of for-profit fraudsters?

The best approach for video providers is to take a two-pronged proactive approach to piracy; protect their services against piracy and continuously detect and disrupt piracy attempts. Because pirates look for the weakest link, service protection must cover all forms of video distribution and consumption. Beyond mere encryption, CA and DRM protection must ensure that content decryption is coupled with the service business rules, while taking into account the possible vulnerabilities of the client devices and platforms. Protection is important not only as a preventative measure but also for detecting and disrupting the sources from which video is re-distributed. In order to ensure they are adequately protected, and to drive down piracy, it is essential for video providers to stay informed about how pirates operate. Pirates are very agile, and they can react quickly to security measures. To counter pirates’ agility effectively, it’s important to understand the pirate services that pose the toughest competition, such as subscription pirate networks that provide a commercial-grade experience. That way, you can be ready to employ multiple technologies to overcome pirate evasion tactics in a scalable manner, including watermarking, predictive analytics, and automation tools.

Does the industry need to collaborate more to fight piracy?

The same video content is often distributed via multiple providers. It is therefore critical that all the distributors collaborate to take the same level of measures against piracy. Pirates always look for the weakest link. It is important to avoid a situation where one distributor is compromised, while other video providers, who did put in place the right security measures, could be impacted due to the global nature of piracy. Though there is increase in collaboration among content rights owners, distributors and international anti-piracy organisations, it is unfortunate that most of the collaboration continues to promote the slow and less impactful path of legal action. There’s a need for more disciplined application of security measures across distribution. In addition, distribution enablers, such as CDNs, cloud hosts, and ISPs should join forces with the fight against piracy.

Is password sharing a great marketing tool or does it present a real threat to business?

In the past, password sharing was perceived as a marketing tool that allowed potential subscribers to try what were then, considered new online services. Streaming is now considered mainstream, while sharing has become a social norm. Moreover, fraudsters also take advantage of the fact that credentials sharing is easy, and so turn re-selling credentials (either stolen or with account owner permission) into a profitable business. The impact is detrimental, to streaming pay TV providers. While OTT costs grow proportionally to usage, the revenue is calculated per subscriber. To give a sense of perspective, US pay TV revenue loss is expected to be approximately US$10 billion in 2021. The disruption of this threat can be a marketing tool in itself. Taking a carrot and stick approach, the consumers who use someone else’s credentials can be offered a legal subscription, while security measures are applied to shut down the fraudsters’ activity.

What technologies and techniques are coming on stream that will help in the future?

As piracy of OTT services grows, OTT service providers can leverage usage data by applying User and Entity Behavioural Analytics methods to detect suspicious piracy behaviour. In addition, new technology is emerging to impact the pirate online ecosystem.

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