Smart card piracy is no longer the preserve of computer geniuses who work out the algorithms used by pay-TV providers, before distributing the codes over the internet. Instead highly sophisticated criminals run a global network, where individual organisations on different continents are each responsible for a separate part of the process.
Viaccess, the Paris-based conditional access and security company, explained to Broadband TV News that in order to address the future it was essential to look at what keeps the pay-TV business sustainable. The object of the exercise is to maintain a full spectrum of activities in order to keep the product a “generation ahead” of the criminals.
Viaccess recently announced the launch of its new generation smart card, the PC5, which it has designed to fight the latest forms of piracy, including Control Word (CW) sharing piracy, regardless of the distribution network.
“Each and every time a card is hacked we say it openly and tell our customers who’s behind the hack,” said Christine Maury Panis, executive vice president and general counsel, Viaccess, who is also a vice president of the European anti-piracy organisation AEPOC (European Association for the Protection of Encrypted Works and Services).
Mme Maury Panis told Broadband TV News that the modern pirate was totally organised and was involved in a business that made millions of Euros every year. Russia and Germany are Europe’s hotspots, designing the pirate cards that are then manufactured in Asia before being shipped to Africa for onward distribution. “Where we are able to take action, we do so. For example we’ve started actions in Algeria where the prime minister has said he wants to fight cyber criminality”. Similar actions are planned elsewhere in Europe under the AEPOC banner, and in a joint case in Belgium relating to a control word sharing operation, a designer was recently put out of business, losing a monthly income of some €5,000.
A major problem in tackling smart card piracy is the use of control word sharing. Here a legitimate smart card is connected to a host set-top box, retrofitted with software capable of decoding the “control word”. Once revealed the control word can be shared over the internet to pirate cards.
Aware of the problem, Viaccess has built a new system into PC5 that is capable of detecting when reception has been achieved by duplicitous means. It is then possible to switch off not only the set-top that is receiving the codes without authorisation, but also the card that is sending the unauthorised codes in the first place, potentially knocking out several hundred pirated signals.