To be attributed to: Rishi Varma, Director of Product Management, APJ, Akamai
The streaming industry has seen massive growth over the past year as viewers turned online for their entertainment needs, with titles such as Squid Games, Oscar-winning Parasite and Crash Landing on You becoming household names thanks to broadcast and streaming platforms. Yet, threat actors, eager to leverage piracy as a revenue stream, have also been quick to tap on demand for popular digital content to attract viewers to illegitimate streaming sites.
With Asia’s streaming revenues projected to reach $54bn by 2026, a 90% increase from 2020, it’s clear that APAC will be the next battleground between broadcasters and digital pirates looking to capitalise on this shift. Yet, broadcasters and streaming providers in the region are ill-prepared to defend and prevent theft from modern-day content pirates – as evidenced by Akamai’s latest State of the Internet ‘Pirates in the Outfield’ report with MUSO, which found that APAC is home to two of the five largest global piracy markets, India, and China.
Piracy is also evolving. As content protection strategies have improved, so have the attack vectors used by pirate groups to infringe rights held content. Using the latest cyber security monitoring techniques, we have observed a range of attack vectors from traditional means such as stream ripping, VPN abuse, link sharing and token theft etc, through to more sophisticated methods such as modifying Android Package Kits (APK), attacking player Application Programming Interfaces (API), overwhelming servers with DDoS attacks and many others.
Additionally, curbing piracy is a difficult process, as defenders themselves are sometimes in the dark, as they lack visibility and real-time information into the various means that malicious threat actors use. With digital pirates growing their dominance in the region, broadcasters and streaming providers may soon find their promised $54bn streaming revenue pie shrinking – impacting industry growth.
How Digital Piracy will Seriously Damage the Content Industry
Content piracy has often been considered a cost of doing business, but this is no longer the case today – it is a massive and growing business issue that has the potential to impede industry growth.
Take the US for example. In 2019, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Centre estimated that piracy is responsible for at least $29B in lost revenue each year. Consequently, if production studios and broadcasters don’t see a return on their investment, they are less likely to work on developing new projects. This impacts producers, behind-the-scenes crew, talent and ultimately the fans themselves if new content isn’t developed.
Additionally, with competitive pressures for audiences intensifying due to new streaming services, legitimate distributors are also competing with pirate operators who are capable of delivering exemplary viewing experiences and generating very high margins. The impact on losing out on that revenue for legitimate channels can range from job losses, channel closures to an entire series being cancelled.
Given these elements, it’s vital that organisations, broadcast providers and decision makers in the industry take appropriate measures to minimise the long-term impacts of piracy on their business.
Tackling Content Piracy: Why Achieving 360-degree Awareness is Key
Simply shutting down a pirate service in itself won’t necessarily make a difference to legitimate viewing – unless the perpetrators are caught and prosecuted, they can easily set up a new site within minutes. For organised pirate gangs, even prosecution is not a deterrent. It is important to thwart piracy before it has a chance to make an impact, through a 360-degree approach that aims to identify and mitigate broadcast layer piracy in near real-time.
Pirates often use a variety of attack vectors to bypass security restrictions and steal content. To control access to content and prevent digital theft it takes several layers of protection to defend: at the content level, at the access level, at the network level, at the API/application level etc. What really makes a difference is a managed security posture that can constantly monitor and counter the vectors that pirates exploit. This prevents a content provider from falling into the trap of focusing on a single method of piracy, as cybercriminals will layer their attacks across several surfaces – often at the same time, to confuse defenders and bypass restrictions. However, with the right partner and the right visibility, an organisation can put those defences in place and take control of the situation.
Piracy is more pervasive than ever, and the techniques and technologies that pirates employ are constantly evolving. With digital content becoming mainstream in APAC, industry players must evolve with them and be diligent in using solutions that block piracy and protect their IP to ensure their continued growth.