CPS 2022: Residential IP Addresses are a Rising Threat to Content Exclusivity

Over-the-top (OTT) streaming services are facing a new threat: hijacked residential IP addresses, experts said 6th Dec at the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) Content Protection Summit (CPS).

It is estimated that about 200 million people unknowingly had their home IP addresses hijacked, often because they used a supposedly “free” virtual private network (VPN). Pirate viewers use these IP addresses to access territorially restricted content for free or at a reduced price.

By hiding behind legitimate domestic IP addresses, pirate viewers can easily bypass VPN restrictions because streaming providers can’t risk blocking genuine users. But the failure to stop this form of geo-piracy puts OTT streaming services at risk for non-compliance with rights holders’ agreements for content exclusivity.

During the CPS session “Residential IP Addresses: A Rising Threat to Content Exclusivity,” James Clark, GM of media and entertainment at GeoComply, and Brian Paxton, managing director at Kingsmead Security, discussed the risks hijacked residential IP addresses pose to the media industry and the effect it is having on cyber criminality.

“We’re going to talk to you about hijacked residential IP addresses and take you on a bit of a journey,” Clark said at the start of the session.

“So we heard this morning … about how important it is to know who our users are to be able to have that level of trust,” he noted.

“We’re going to talk about a very easy way to fake your identity, fake your location, which is happening all around the world and causing all manner of problems,” he said.

He went on to explain how the use of location spoofing can “directly affect the value of media rights, which is how we all basically get paid.”

“By way of a show of hands, I’m sure everybody in this room knows what a VPN is, but how many people have used one?” Clark asked attendees. “Pretty much everybody. And who’s used one to stream media? 10, almost everybody, which is probably close to the true numbers,” he said.

The global population of internet users overall is around 5 billion people, he noted. “Of those, at least a third of them admit to using VPNs … and just over half of them admit to using VPNs to access entertainment content,” he said, noting the latter is “streaming video they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get access to.”

Therefore, about “800 million people all around the world are basically trying to abuse the rules and regulations that we as an industry try to put in place to protect the value of this great content that we’re all working on,” he said.

It is also simple to find various price comparison websites where you can learn  where to subscribe to Youtube or any other streaming service for less than regular price, he noted.

Service price differences in different countries is another problem, he said. So while it might cost a whopping $280 a year to subscribe to a streaming service in the UK, it may only be $15 in India for the same service and content, he pointed out.

There was, meanwhile, a “huge spike” when the World Cup started of people trying to find a free VPN to watch the soccer matches, he said, noting that while the competition is free to watch in some countries, there is a fee to watch it in some places.

Paxton went on to note how surprised he was to see how pervasive the problem was.  While working on a white paper with Clark on the subject, they found 85% of the IP addresses using VPNs were residential IP addresses.

To download the presentation, click here.

To view the entire session, click here.

Presented by Fortinet and produced by MESA, CDSA’s Content Protection Summit is sponsored by Convergent Risks, Richey May Technology Solutions, GeoComply, Signiant, Verimatrix, Shift Media, EIDR and EZDRM.