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Irdeto Introduces ActiveCloak: DRM May Be Only Half The Battle
Irdeto turns obfuscation into a dynamic solution via its new ActiveCloak platform

With the advent of UltraViolet, a multiple-DRM scheme proposed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) group, a number of studios, content owners, delivery networks and big-box retailers are attempting to allow consumers to play content they "own" (read: license) on a broader number of devices than would be accessible by a single DRM scheme.

In the April/May issue of Streaming Media magazine, we'll be talking more about UltraViolet and other multi-DRM ecosystems, but an announcement this week caught my attention when it suggested that DRM may only be one part of a much larger issue.

Irdeto, a company that has a long history in pay TV conditional access (CA), thinks that the multi-DRM scheme is only half the battle.

"Premium content is the lifeblood of the entertainment industry," says Irdeto's chief executive officer, Graham Kill, "and DRM alone cannot protect critical digital assets from the persistent attacks of today's savvy hackers."

On that premise, I spent time on the phone with Jan Steenkamp, Irdeto's vice president of the Americas, and Christopher Schouten, senior director of solutions marketing, to learn what Irdeto suggests may be missing.

"Content must be protected from every angle," says Steenkamp. "Our objective is to allow our traditional pay TV customers, who are quite comfortable with conditional access for satellite or cable delivery, to move online for broadband delivery. As part of that move, we're productizing our obfuscation core under the label of ActiveCloak."

Steenkamp added that the reason for releasing this platform now is due, in large part, to a shift in the market dynamics of premium paid content versus advertising-supported content.

"In today's market, we see that premium content will lead, if content owners are comfortable with the security of their content," said Steenkamp. "Advertising is still coming along with a business model, which is completely reverse of where the market was heading less than two years ago. At that point, advertising-supported content seemed to be leading the way, where today it's clearly driven by premium content."

This move beyond static security to integrated dynamic security manifests itself at the moment in three use cases.

"As we turn ActiveCloak into a dynamically renewable platform," said Schouten, we see a three-fold market for the initial services: delivery of over-the-top (OTT) content to set-top boxes, delivery of the same to tablet devices-including the iPad/iPhone and, soon, Android devices-and in-home streaming from downloaded content to multiple other devices via DLNA."

Irdeto has already provided its Cloakware technology for Netflix on the GoogleTV-based Logitech Revue, and says that it's been able to guarantee security of the content even as hardware attacks have made the news.

"There have been widely reported hardware attacks on the Revue," said Schouten, "but our research shows that ActiveCloak-protected content is still secure. That's what we want to make sure of: We're able to protect content even if the hardware is compromised. We think we're the first to do so in embedded environments."

When asked about UltraViolet and other multi-DRM ecosystems that are emerging, Schouten said that the issue of a static obfuscation solution may potentially cause long-term issues for UltraViolet.

"Other solutions provided for UltraViolet are only static obfuscation," he said, "and they've only just been on the market for the last year or so, unlike our obfuscation technology that has more than a decade of testing and real-world use against it. We used to do static obfuscation, but learned that only a resilient, dynamic solution will guarantee that there's not a single point of failure if a hacker cracks the code of a static defense technology."

When asked about the future of these technologies, Steenkamp said that the trust factor provided by a combination of DRM and active obfuscation may put premium content owners at ease enough to push forward with new business models.

"We're just at the beginning of viable premium content models for the broadband-connected world," said Steenkamp. "We're starting at streaming to devices, but the premium models have both an upward an a downward trend: upward from SD content being streamed to true HD content being streamed, and downward in terms of download, storage, and ownership to allow a consumer to take the content with them.

"If you don't implement a way to maintain security across all the platforms," he added, "the business model falls down."

Schouten also noted that ActiveCloak isn't just a single-sale technology, but rather an ongoing service offering, much like it had been in the controlled-access world of pay TV.

"As in the CA world," added Schouten, "we manage the technology, monitor it for trends, support it, and update it. So it's not just a static obfuscation technology, it's a dynamic and resilient technology that can be modified to protect premium content."

"The three use cases I mentioned are just a few of a use scenario group of 15 or so," he added. "We'll monitor and implement the others as the need arises."

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