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10:45 AM
Craig Leddy
Craig Leddy
News Analysis-Security Now

Pay-TV Security Gets 50 Shades Darker

Pay-TV providers are seeing new security threats and vulnerabilities every day, and are facing numerous challenges trying to tighten the security that protects organizations, as well as their customers.

During a recent Light Reading Live conference on service provider security, experts made an assessment of the current state of hacking threats, cyber attacks and video piracy that can best be summed up in two words: nothing good.

Following a spate of recent breaches of service provider infrastructure around the globe, security experts foresee an increase in attacks designed to disrupt service, steal confidential data, extort ransom or pirate content. Together, these criminal activities comprise a multi-pronged threat to service providers and the entire pay-TV business.

A new Heavy Reading report, Heavy Reading report, "Pay TV Faces New Security Threats: Are Providers Ready?," assesses the threats, including video piracy and cyber attacks, based upon recent analysis by security technology experts. It discusses the vulnerabilities that can expose service providers, and the new solutions for protection. Included is a chart of ten technology providers that are offering security solutions to US cable providers.

Previously, pay-TV security was a more straightforward process because video was delivered in a linear chain. Cable, telco and satellite companies could employ encryption and conditional access systems (CAS), while content providers could largely rely upon digital rights management (DRM) solutions. But in today's IP world of multiple platforms and devices, security is much more complex and attacks can come from various angles, the report says.

Moreover, service providers and content companies have grown in size and stature, making them more attractive targets for pirates and hackers. Today's providers are in the firing line of activities that are grabbing headlines daily, including global efforts to steal company assets, crash networks and influence political elections.

Last August, a breach of a Charter Communications Inc. headend in Texas resulted in racial hate messages being broadcast on subscribers' TV screens. For TV5Monde, the French programmer, it was 11 channels airing jihadist propaganda for 18 hours. Recent breaches have shut down Internet service by Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY)'s Ziggo, TalkTalk in the UK and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), and produced well publicized data leaks at Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO).

Based on security experts' assessments, Heavy Reading says service providers are becoming more vulnerable by supporting the very products that are designed to make their services more attractive to customers, including over-the-top (OTT) video, more IP devices, 4K Ultra HD, virtual reality, wireless capability and the Internet of Things (IoT). After security leaks were discovered in IoT devices, such as IP cameras, there's been a stronger push to bake in security from the start.

Despite all of the attention and money being devoted to security in general, providers are in an arms race with their foes -- and they probably are losing. "Hackers learn and evolve faster than we in the industry do," said Jason Boswell, director, security practice, North America, for Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), during Light Reading's Service Provider & Enterprise Security Strategies 2016 conference.

When it comes to video theft, "the arms race with pirates absolutely will continue as content continues to get more valuable and devices continue to get more open," said Avni Rambhia, industry principal, digital transformation, for Frost & Sullivan , during a Light Reading webinar with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) on Holistic Security.

Many service provider organizations have a patchwork of video, Internet and IT security that leaves exposable gaps, according to security experts. Companies end up "almost playing Whac-A-Mole with whichever group has a problem at that time," Rambhia said.

Service providers need to take a holistic approach that integrates solutions and policies into a tight defense, the Heavy Reading report says. They also need to overcome human error that results in exposure. Another form of human error, the report says, is when content providers, including Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) , condone password-sharing that provides tacit approval of video piracy.

— Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading

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