Guardians of the Stream: Preserving the Integrity of the OTT Industry

September 8, 2023 11:53 am Published by


An unintended consequence of digital transformation in the entertainment industry is that it has exponentially increased the threat landscape from bad actors.

In video production, for example, as the industry has moved to file-based workflows, the number of “endpoints” that can access or touch an asset has grown. This increases the risk of a cyberattack as sensitive information is shared digitally across multiple platforms and channels, which can result in the theft or exposure of valuable intellectual property, and other data.

Beyond production, consumers are also at risk. Mobile video streaming has become the norm across Asia Pacific, brought about by the prevalence of smartphones and tablets. Increased mobile device dependency creates more weak links in the security chain, causing greater exposure to threats like phishing and other malicious activities. Akamai research shows that nearly 1 in 10 monitored devices, on average, attempted to reach out to domains associated with either malware, phishing, or command and control (C2) in 2022.

Unraveling the Web of Cyberthreats Targeting OTT

One of the biggest problems facing the content streaming industry is digital piracy. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report on piracy, there were 82 billion visits to piracy websites in the television and film industries between January and September 2021, resulting in a massive loss of revenue to the industry.

Digital pirates use a range of attack vectors to retrieve and distribute content in 2023. “Credential stuffing” is an attack method in which nefarious actors tap automated tools to use stolen login information to attempt to gain access to user accounts on other online sites. Stolen credentials can be used for a host of illicit purposes, such as enabling non-subscribers to view content via pirated streaming accounts. Compromised accounts are also sold, traded or harvested for various types of personal information, and they are often available for purchase in bulk on the dark web.

Geopiracy is also another key trend that was exacerbated by the pandemic. Consumers of premium OTT and traditional pay TV use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Domain Name System (DNS) proxy services to circumvent territorial restrictions and access the services of foreign broadcasters that offer the same or better content at cheaper prices and with earlier release schedules. Again, this has a large revenue impact across the industry.

An Ever-Evolving Line of Defense

Situational awareness, coupled with an appropriate, robust defensive posture, is of prime importance when combating digital threats, because criminals evolve their attacks over time, sometimes within hours. Broadcasters and streaming services can defend themselves by addressing workflow issues and API-based problems, as criminals are constantly looking to exploit these areas.

To reduce the risk of cyberattacks, OTT businesses should enforce a strategy of least privilege by using a Zero Trust Network Access tool for employees and contractors who seek access to key resources. They should also look to detect and block malicious traffic that originates inside the network using a secure web gateway.These Zero Trust approaches will reduce the likelihood that the thief can get inside the vault — and if they do, limit their ability to make it to the getaway car.

For piracy and geopiracy threats, Akamai is constantly updating its software to make sure that authorized users can access content securely. For example, to counter anonymous proxy and VPN services that are specifically designed to defeat region controls of popular OTT services, Akamai protects content with various geographic restrictions such as Enhanced Proxy Detection. This allows customers to determine whether a requesting IP address is associated with a VPN service or an anonymous proxy and take action on users who are trying to access content from illegitimate regions.

As the industry continues to transform rapidly, new threats will emerge on a daily – if not hourly – basis. However, with strong situational awareness and a strong defense posture in place, the industry will be in good stead to install more proactive measures to stay one step ahead of the cybercriminals, and maintain the best possible experience for customers.

Dean Houari

Director of Security Technology and Strategy APJ






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This post was written by Akamai