There’s no vaccination for COVID Piracy but there is hope!

There’s no vaccination for COVID Piracy but there is hope!


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There’s no vaccination for COVID Piracy but there is hope!

Journal Article from Irdeto

Thu 01, 07 2021

Mark Mulready

VP Cyber Services, Irdeto

The world, slowly but surely, is re-opening its tired eyes to what we called ‘normal’ before COVID-19 struck, shutting down everything and anything worldwide. Measures are being reworked and we’re able, in some locations, to return to normality by heading back to the office, going to the movies and resuming face to face contact.

The COVID-19 pandemic truly accelerated the Video Entertainment industry, in its totality, in two different directions. Not only did it catalyze digitalization and streaming services need for D2C, but it also increased the risks threatened by piracy and security issues. Circumstances have changed, and digitalization has increased. The entire value chain including production, postproduction, and distribution is now digital. This has been in development for a while, but COVID-19 accelerated the process with contact and face-to-face life being limited.

Piracy was not a new phenomenon when COVID-19 struck, we had always battled with nefarious pirates long before we entered a pandemic. When the coronavirus first took hold in early 2020, internet usage soared with lockdowns forcing us to drastically alter how we go about our daily lives. In the UK, internet service providers (ISPs) saw a double-digit increase in broadband usage in March, with BT claiming fixed network traffic jumped as much as 60%. Since then, it has become apparent that the level of disruption brought by COVID-19 would not be a passing inconvenience and would instead leave a lasting impact. Online activity has remained at levels once considered ‘peak’ but now considered ‘normal’. All this online activity also means more opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit our networks, our devices, and often our well-intentioned human nature too. Cybercriminals are smart and creative when it comes to inventing new threats and scams, and the world has seen criminal groups increasingly switching to COVID-19 themed traps for phishing, attempting to exploit general anxieties around the virus to their advantage. It was reported that significant cyberattacks against critical targets in Europe have doubled in the past year.

Operators must of course think about security and protection, but what must also be considered is the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of the platform. Security and protection come at a cost, and we understand that operators don’t have an independent budget to allocate to these services.

When it comes to protecting content from pirates, one must think like a pirate to outmaneuver the pirate.

One should think about how a pirate would look for the content, how the content would be pirated and if there are any weak links in the infrastructure. This means operators must take a smart approach in protecting and securing their valuable content. With this comes three other factors to consider: time to implement, cost to implement, and impact of the implementation. Let’s explore this further.


If operators are looking to launch a new OTT service, the first step is to use a multi-DRM and content usage management solution. With this operators can eliminate the simple things. Then from here, things become a little more nuanced, such as managing credential sharing, which Netflix is homing in on. Password sharing violates Netflix's terms of service, which means it's technically illegal. To combat this from happening, Concurrent Stream management provides strong enforcement against this, meaning Susie can’t share her password with Amrita to watch the latest Rom-Com on Netflix. As well as this, operators can think about CDN tokenization, but unfortunately, we are seeing pirates leveraging this and using operator CDNs to deliver content they’ve pirated. Further steps operators can take include protecting the application the content is delivered from to secure themselves against either jailbroken or rooted phones. There are tools however to detect devices that have been jailbroken and can limit the use of the application. 

Operators can also add watermarking to their content so that it can be located more easily. Irdeto’s TraceMark™ supports different use cases, from tracking security weaknesses in distribution channels to identifying individual pirate sessions to disrupt unauthorized streams at the source. Whether you are trying to protect live or video-on-demand content or whether you deliver your content over Satellite or OTT platforms, Irdeto has a watermarking solution that is optimal for content protection needs.  

Reliability & Scalability

2020 was a breakout year for OTT plaforms where we saw explosive subscriber and usage growth. Consumers now turn to streaming services to get their fix for content. And with that comes the expectation of a high-quality and seamless streaming experience. Operators must ask themselves:  are my platforms up to the task to support my subscriber growth? Can we handle high-profile events such as live concerts, sports events, or online movie premieres? Can it support my global ambitions? Is a 99,999% Service Level Agreement enough these days?  All these questions need to be answered to ensure that consumers remain happy with the service they’ve subscribed to. Dissatisfaction may lead to consumers canceling their subscription to the service and your ambitious business plans may go up in smoke.


There has been and continues to be a large trend toward SaaS and Cloud solutions rather than license or on-premises implementations, as these solutions offer higher service levels and scalability. This means that service providers benefit from the scale that a company like Irdeto can offer. For example, Irdeto offers an industry-leading service, 99,999% SLA, and we serve over 2.7 billion DRM licenses monthly and that number only continues to grow. We’re able to help customers to benefit from our economies of scale and we’re able to be flexible when demand is required.  Irdeto can spread the peaks of demand out globally whereas an operator would have to size their operations for their own peaks, paying for idle capacity most of the time. Irdeto manages and invests in your infrastructure, all accompanied by our expert knowledge. We actively analyze the usage of our services to detect service abuse and will support our customers in addressing those issues.

So, what comes next?

We must all remain realistic in the fight against piracy – it will always be there. What we can advise is to ensure reasonable measures are taken to protect the content and that valuable content is encrypted as a preliminary stand against the pirates. We must remain vigilant, respond quickly, and continue to assess your network, your capabilities, your action plans and adding levels of security - as piracy evolves, so should your security solutions. Effective content protection requires 24×7 monitoring for rapid breach detection, notification, and takedown of illegal content. Having this additional layer of protection will provide peace of mind for rights holders and content owners that every measure is being taken to protect assets from illegal redistribution and protect their revenue. Every operator will have embark on a different journey in fighting piracy. What is needed is an incremental approach with a long-term partner that can advise you throughout this journey and has the tools and relationships to assess, protect, detect, take down along each step, and go the legal route to enforce if necessary.

Looking further into the future, our focus must be on increased education of cybersecurity risks, through cross-industry collaboration, government, media support, and greater investment in tools to fight against modern threats. The new reality of the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in cybersecurity and more can be done to protect systems. 2020 highlighted the need for solid systems and how dialogue with industry partners and customers is necessary to find the right solutions. We have to adapt because the risks are high if we ignore them.  There may be no vaccine to cure content piracy, but there are steps we can take to mitigate the risks.

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