What Technology Can be Used to Detect Piracy of Audio and Video Streams?

by Intrasonics Team

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Even though we live in an era where the technology behind audio and video streaming platforms is at its sophisticated best, piracy still continues to plague the industry.

Though it’s quite different to what we have been used to in P2P services, torrents and DivX downloads.

Rather, piracy has developed and evolved and is much harder to deal with than it ever was in the past.

One of the main issues is that many users will actually choose services offering pirated streaming because they have a greater variety of content available at a much lower price.

Even more curious is that because sites that host pirated content have progressed in terms of their design and user interface, many are not even aware that they are even doing anything illegal.

They look like the real thing and still cost something – which is all the convincing less-than-savvy users need to feel sure they are on an official and legal site.

As piracy continues to be a prevailing issue, in this post we are going to look at the different tech being used to detect piracy of streams and audio.

Before, we get into that, let’s discuss some of the types of piracy that exists that companies are trying to fight against.

Different Types of Piracy

It has been estimated that more than $30bn has been lost in US revenue alone due to video piracy sites and platforms throughout 2020, with a report by The Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center estimating this number could even be as high as $71bn across the world.

The thing you need to understand is that piracy is not about files being stored on hard drives.

Nowadays, pirates are illegally selling and sharing video and audio content in various new and sophisticated ways.

The thing that separates these from the past methods used is that they often involve access to illegal content rather than the ownership of illegal copies.

Piracy Through Credential Sharing

It is crucial that content stream providers have effective content protection solutions in place.

What is known as credential sharing is perhaps, though, the simplest and most commonplace, but trickiest form of piracy to deal with.

There are various forms of credential abuse. This basically amounts to unauthorized users and households using the login and password of an existing account to use audio and video streaming services.

This form of piracy is on track to cost up to $10bn in 2021, and in the next four years, revenue loss as a result of password sharing is calculated to triple.

There are four main types of piracy involving credential sharing:

  • Commercial – This is when streaming platform accounts and the credentials necessary to gain access to sublet for money.
  • Pooling/Swapping – This is a way to avoid needing to subscribe a service, and involves users swapping their credentials so both parties get the benefit of the other’s accounts.
  • Casual – This is when credential sharing occurs between family members and friends.
  • Credential theft – Credential theft usually occurs when legitimate accounts are hijacked, and the username and passwords are stolen. These are then sold, and it is thought that during just 2019 that more than 5bn stolen credentials were available on both the dark and open web.

Other Methods of Piracy Involving Credentials Sharing

  • Attacks on Key Distribution – When hackers get the key that encrypts video and audio, pirates share it, providing interested users in access through the CND where they can view it decrypted.
  • Theft of Tokens – as web browsers and streaming apps make use of tokens as a way to identify users, these can be copied onto other devices and then reused to access the content.
  • Concurrency Controls Bypass – in this form of piracy, they hack the systems in place controlling the number of connected devices available to a single account, opening it up to be used by many users.
  • Endless Trials – This method involves pirates creating fake accounts and puts these up for sale.

Piracy Through File Sharing

With this form of piracy, the content files are stolen from the original steaming source and then spread out across the network.

It is with live sports events that this method is the most popular, especially as they may not have a subscription to a cable provider where the events are broadcast.

Even with DRM or Digital Rights Management, there are loopholes, because at some point along the way, humans will view and listen to the content.

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Many pirates know this and employ specialist software that records the content while it is being played on screen, grabbing the content from a PC, set-top box or another streaming device. It is then encoded again.

With this form of bypassing DRM the downside is there will be a loss in quality because of the decoding and re-encoding part of the process to capture the video and audio.

It can be done while retaining the quality of the original by capturing the content after it has just been decrypted but has not yet been decoded.

Very often, pirates simply subscribe to the service legally so that they can access the content legally. They then extract and re-share.

What Kinds of Anti-Piracy Technology is Used?

With the above in mind, it’s time to look at what streaming services can and are doing to prevent piracy. SPP or Streaming Piracy Prevention is the overarching name given to all the different solutions used.

We are going to look at some of the most popular and effective below.

Digital Rights Management and Conditional Access Systems

DRM and CAS are two of the most common solutions to delivering secure TV content through IP and broadcast networks.

However, the ever-improving and advancing piracy techniques and technologies employed are placing increasing amounts of pressure on content providers to provide even more sophisticated solutions.

The best way to combat piracy when using DRM is by combining it with high quality watermarking.

High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection

HDCP is a type of protection for digital copies that was designed and devised by Intel to create output device encryption.

The problem is that the form of protection was hacked back in 2010 and ever since then, can be fully bypassed.

Website Blocking

Sometimes the simplest way is for the content owners to work with specific ISPs to block users from having access to big illegal content streaming sites.

It can take many forms, including:

  • Blocking the Uniform Resource Locator
  • Blocking the Domain Name Server
  • Blocking the Internet Protocol Address

We should add that there are two problems here:

(a) how to detect which websites are hosting illegal material and (b) swift cooperation of the ISP is required.

Both of these problems is where watermarking comes in, as:

  • Watermarks allow you to detect illegal material, and
  • Watermarks allow you to block the original pirate, so that you don’t need help from ISP anymore.

Forensic Watermarking or Digital Tattooing

Often referred to as simply “Watermarking”, the process of watermarking involves digital data being embedded into the video signal so that the origin source can be identified.

The goal of this process is to help identify the illegal streaming service redistribution source.

Every bit of content is given a tattoo or marking that is a unique and specific identifier that in the event of piracy can be and used to find the source.

This is successful to varying degrees, depending on the audio watermarking company or method used.

Here at Intrasonics, we use an inaudible audio watermark which survives compression and sharing of the audio file.

Contact Us For a Demo Now and see how we can protect and monitor your content

Are We Likely to See a 100% Effective Anti-Piracy Technology Any Time Soon?

The problem with piracy is that in a similar way to the even bigger issue of cybercrime in general, regardless of how great and effective anti-piracy technology is, we are unlikely to see illegal use of content being completely eradicated.

As long as there are users who want to listen to music and watch movies, there will be the same cat and mouse game we’ve had for decades.

The closest the industry has gotten to providing a fool proof solution is with a combined effort consisting of DRM, CAS and partnerships for anti-piracy, with a focus on monitoring and response to pirate activity and piracy tracking.

This is where watermarking comes in. While an audio watermark doesn’t make the output “secure”, it does make it completely traceable. Which means that any piracy breach can be detected and led back to the source. No technology is 100% effective in stopping piracy, which is why you want to be able to perfectly trace content, and you can do exactly that when your content is watermarked.

Contact Us to Try it Now

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