Protecting premium video content from piracy on set-top boxes with forensic watermarking technology

Protecting premium video content from piracy on set-top boxes with forensic watermarking technology

Piracy is a major concern for premium content owners, and they go to great measures to prevent it. It is important for them to make sure that their money does not leak into different geographic markets because of the internet’s interconnected nature. Set-top boxes remain vital in the industry despite the dominance of OTT apps and web browsers in video content.

When OTT content is sent to a user’s device via a CDN, it is protected by both DRM and forensic watermarking. Set-top boxes are required by content owners to place forensic watermarks on every content that flows through them. Forensic watermarks are applied after decryption of DRM protected content for analogue or digital viewing, which means that any forensic watermarking solution should work at the level of individual set-top boxes.

When it comes to traditional TV sets, watermarks have traditionally been added to baseband content. However, if baseband content is to be re-encoded, introducing an unnoticeable message such as a video watermark is considered resource heavy. Baseband watermarking has been discovered to be hackable.

To tackle these challenges, industry leaders have created an asymmetrical technique, in which watermarked content is encoded only once but decoded numerous times throughout the playback. For video watermarking, it creates a metadata stream that includes information about the set-top box and other identifiers. A conditional access system, such as a virtual or smart card, is required for each set-top box in order to authenticate itself to the server. After authentication, the incoming content is decrypted by a set-top box descrambler.

Like IPTV watermark embedding technology, embedded watermarks at the set-top box level also need to be stored in a database for analysis. Watermarking technology captures invisible data from pirated copies of premium content and compares it to a database when the content owner detects it. In order for the pirated content owner to get in touch with the person whose set-top box the content originated, a successful match must be made.

While advertising and subscriptions are obvious ways for pirates to make money, they also deal in a more dangerous practise as well. Personal information (PII) of users who visit their network sites is collected and sold on the dark web by these individuals User behaviour and ad consumption data, as well as more sensitive information, such as user credentials, credit card numbers, etc. Users’ finances are clearly jeopardised when their personal information is compromised in this way.