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A Farncbome White Paper looking at broadcast content security has concluded that is is now appropriate to use of cardless CA solutions in a one-way network in certain scenarios, namely: Where the Pay TV operator involved has a low reach and therefore a low potential customer base for the pirate); Where the operator has a low volume of premium content that is not available elsewhere; Where the operator is in a market with high broadband penetration and speeds; Where it is being used for free-to-air
services that are applying geographical restrictions.
According to the consulting firm, which has a long heritage in content security, these are the circumstances where the incentives for pirates to attack the network are low, as long as barriers to hacking are kept sufficiently high. The lack of reach or premium content obviously reduces the value of the service for hacking. The reason high broadband speeds are relevant is because this makes illegal content redistribution easier and Farncombe explains in the paper that content redistribution will become the main piracy threat over the next five years.
The company warns that in order to capture the content, a pirate needs only to record a picture directly from a high-definition TV. This will actually reduce the efforts to break the CA system. The company says: “Neither cardless nor smartcard-based systems will ever improve sufficiently to prevent all attacks – given enough time and money, a successful attack is always possible. However, improvements in the technologies used in cardless CA systems will, when implemented correctly, create barriers sufficient that most attacks will only affect operators whose content is of high value to pirates and which is not accessible elsewhere.”
Cardless CA systems are exposed to the threat of ‘perfect cloning’ howevever and if this hapens you need to replace all devices (e.g. set-top boxes) unless you can instead migrate to a smartcard system. Thus Farncombe advises that operators using cardless CA for broadcast systems should deploy set-tops with a smartcard slot even if it is left unused. Teh company has analysted the total cost of ownership over five years for CA systems used by a pay satellite operator with a million subscribers. It reckons that a cardless system with smartcard slot will be 25% cheaper than a smartcard system, though as indicated previously, it is only suitable in certain scenarios. “Whilst for many operators the likelihood of a perfect clone attack may be low (as previously discussed in this paper) the cost of including a smartcard slot is minimal,” the company says.
The white paper, ‘The Future of Cardless Broadcast Security’ was sponsored by Verimatrix.