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Cyber Pirates Hold Digital Content for Ransom

Wed, Jul. 05, 2017 | By: Tremor Video


Ransomware is an increasingly significant problem for companies whose data gets hijacked by hackers. But a new twist on this problem shows that content providers also are potentially vulnerable to having their digital assets kidnapped, which has a direct effect on both distribution and monetization.

Studios and producers are increasingly being presented with demands to either pay a ransom fee or watch as rogue copies of movies and television shows are pre-released into the marketplace. It's the latest curveball for an industry dealing with ever-changing distribution and content models—making it tough to assess the damage, and harder to determine the best solution to the problem.

According to a recent report in The Hollywood Reporter (THR), hackers released episodes of Orange is the New Black because Netflix refused to pay a ransom. While lower value content may not be vulnerable, other high value targets, such as theatrical films that have not been released, are like catnip for hackers.

In response to these hack attacks, studios and streaming content providers may find themselves scrambling to tighten pre-release security and better encrypt and protect their content. That means higher costs for providers, a negative impact on monetization and profits, providers being forced to charge more for their content, and thus consumers having to pay more.

Threat Extends to Consumers

Further muddying the waters, malware is increasingly part of what hackers are delivering along with the “free" content. “Hackers have paired up with pirates to inject anyone searching or downloading leaked content with malware of all kinds: To steal info, spy on you, or destroy your computer with ransomware," Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor of online crime in Los Angeles, told THR.

“Criminals have realized that the single easiest way to expose people to malware is with content theft," Tom Galvin, executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance told The Los Angeles Times. “They're baiting consumers, and that's concerning to us."

Consumers clearly need to be vigilant if they are accessing pirated content, which could be susceptible to malware. If there is a silver lining for content providers, it might be that fewer consumers will be drawn to pirated streams if they know that the content may come with a potentially dangerous Trojan Horse.

The bottom line for consumers is that content is never really free. It is either monetized through subscriptions or advertising revenue, or by criminals who ultimately profit by hacking the consumers of pirated streams.

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