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March 14, 2012

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India’s Journey to Digital TV: Security Considerations from a Content Owner’s Perspective, Post #2:

As discussed in our previous post, the upcoming digitalization of cable TV networks in India is one of the largest undertakings of its kind. Here we turn to the most efficient ways of securing premium content.

Licensing of quality (“premium”) content is the cornerstone of a successful pay-TV enterprise. For movie studios and other content providers the threat of large-scale piracy, which could undermine the lifetime revenue potential of their products, is a major concern. Moreover, the commercial stakes for HD content are significantly higher than those of SD – and 3D has been added to the mix in some parts of the world.

And of course content providers are focused on enforcing digital rights through a combination of technological and legal processes. Rights owners and pay-TV operators alike expect digital TV security vendors to address the evolving challenges through a set of technologies and tools that encompass complete revenue security, during content creation, storage, delivery, and consumption – and beyond the network too.

In this respect, Indian cable TV operators planning for the digital transition will benefit from choosing a security vendor that is well known among, and trusted by, the content providers. Perhaps the most important consideration is the vendor’s record of pay-TV operator deployments around the world.  It is particularly important to consider the vendors’ track record is helping operators migrate from a smart card- based security system to a cardless system.

The cardless security of modern set-tops can either consist of a very low-cost box with a highly obfuscated, software-based security module, or a sophisticated system-on-a-chip (SOC) with embedded security features that enables the most robust and impenetrable pay-TV security possible today. The security module is software-based but resides in a highly secure environment that cannot be penetrated by the tools traditionally used by smart card pirates.

The secure SOC solution also solves the “control word sharing” piracy problem. In some legacy systems, the Control Word (content scrambling key) is passed in the clear between the smart card and the set-top video/audio descrambler. Pirates have found ways to intercept the key and share it with other (non-paying) subscribers over the Internet. Thus one hacked box can be used as a “server” for many others to steal pay-TV services. In the secure SOC environment, the key is never exposed in the clear outside the secure area, and hence the control word sharing threat is overcome.

Renewability of security subsystems is a distinct advantage in a landscape of fast changing threats and business opportunities, making software-based security an attractive option. Content security is an arms race against pirates and fraudsters, so the security must be renewable. Software-based security, in combination with state-of-the-art secure SOC technology, offers flexible renewability options allowing cable operators to stay a step ahead.

Software-based and cardless security combines lower CAPEX and OPEX costs into a more favorable Total Cost of Ownership profile. Threats can be countered by over-the-air updates.

Have you transitioned from a smart card-based security system to a cardless system?  What do you see as the primary advantages or benefits?  Do you think Indian operators would be well served to deploy a cardless system?

For additional information on software-based security solutions, please download our white paper, The Advantages of Software-Based Content Security in a Multi-Device, Multi-Service Pay-TV World.

 

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