GUEST COLUMN: How Telegram Fuels Continuous Hacking
New Delhi: The popular messaging app, Telegram, is emerging as the primary source of pirated content across Asia – and the cause of substantial revenue loss for content providers and operators.
Users of the platform, which provides end-to-end encryption, can conceal their identity to share texts, videos or other files relating to copyrighted content. Given that Telegram is popular with millions of active users, intuitive, and offers its users privacy, it is no surprise that streaming hackers are exploiting Telegram.
Telegram’s latest statistics reveal that in January 2021, it had over 500 million monthly active users – 38% in Asia – and it was also the most downloaded app on the App Store. and Google Play worldwide with over 63 million downloads. According to App Annie, it is the most popular social networking app in Malaysia and third in India.
Telegram attracts hackers because it allows them to easily and quickly distribute information to huge encrypted private newsgroups – up to 200,000 people – and its channels can attract millions of subscribers. Video and movie channels are among the most popular with pirate sites like Hindi HD Movies attracting over two million followers.
From recently released movies and popular live sporting events to lesser-known and critically-acclaimed documentaries with subtitles, hackers have circulated, traded and sold illegal copies and music videos on Telegram. The scale of this for-profit piracy is siphoning billions of dollars that rightfully belong to content and streaming providers and rights holders. Analyst firm Nera Consulting estimates the global television industry’s revenue losses due to digital piracy at $ 39.3 billion to $ 95.4 billion annually, while a recent global study conducted by Ampere Analysis for Synamedia has revealed that sports streaming piracy alone is worth over $ 28 billion.
Synamedia has been fighting TV and video piracy for decades, providing services and technology to protect $ 70 billion in operator revenues each year. By adopting an intelligence-driven security model, marrying the best human intelligence with
advanced cybersecurity and AI technologies, we have disrupted hacker services and brought law enforcement officials to the attention of many criminals.
Playing with the system
Tackling Telegram streaming hackers is a 24/7 battle, requiring continuous monitoring and intelligence gathering not only within Telegram but across all social media platforms to profile dishonest gamers and detect cross-platform connections and relationships. Armed with this insight, Synamedia uses AI-based content recognition bots to infiltrate Telegram channels, track and identify specific pirate streams by combining metadata from a target video – and / or live streams via Platform API – with advanced deep machine learning models.
Here we can share some of our observations on how streaming hackers exploit Telegram:
Prized Piracy Loot:
The highly anticipated Bollywood blockbusters, newly released content and live events – especially sports devices stolen from legitimate streaming sites – are the main attractions. A live sporting event can generate several hundred pirated channels with links to watch illegal streams. But older VOD content is still valuable, as we saw during crashes when live events were paused.
Masters of disguise:
With no player built into the platform, hackers use Telegram channels and groups to distribute M3U text and links to consumers and to upload videos to Telegram’s hosted cloud services for free. To maximize the appeal, hackers even include subtitles in different languages and use legitimate payment systems like PayPal and Bitcoin. Hackers hide keywords related to the event they are stealing or use code words to weave a web of intrigue by incorporating references to new private pirate channels in their messages.
Master in Strategy:
Hackers act fast, in real time. Minutes before a live sports match, for example, they’ll proliferate new channels on Telegram with new links to illegitimate content. They have backup channels ready to switch at any time, sometimes warning consumers which channel to use if the first hacked live stream is deleted. They even have their own virtual crow’s nest or “lookouts” for surveillance during an event. We saw a case where a streaming hacker changed the name of the video being broadcast due to a report from other members of the newsgroup.
Hackers will post that a Telegram channel has been disrupted due to copyright and distribute tips on how to follow a new one. They also encourage consumers to turn to other pirate platforms and sites, providing links to the open web or links to other platforms with players.
Steal the flow:
Not satisfied with stealing live or on-demand content streams, hackers also offer OTT subscribers the stolen credentials, pirated APKs, and pirated IPTV emulation channels that give consumers a link to the live channels without having need a decoder.
Anti-piracy game changer
The fight against streaming piracy requires solutions that demotivate hackers at every step of the video distribution chain. That’s why Synamedia’s anti-piracy monitoring solutions extend far beyond social media platforms to the far reaches of free space.
Web – as well as IPTV networks closed by subscription.
Developing an anti-piracy strategy requires a careful, forensic, and intelligence-driven approach to map the increasingly complex and sophisticated hacker ecosystem in multiple layers to cross data, spot patterns of hacking behavior, unraveling approaches and understanding trends. And to win against hackers, the media and entertainment industry must collaborate not only with technology providers, but also with governments, regulators and law enforcement agencies. It forces governments around the world to enforce the use of technologies such as watermark and to introduce tougher legal penalties.
Streaming hacking is an existential threat. With the sky-high sums spent on content production and the purchase of sports rights, providers have a right to be sure that they are covering their costs and generating enough revenue to create sustainable business models, as the leaks of income from piracy is simply not sustainable in the long run.
In addition to discouraging and disrupting piracy, the use of a model that offers incentives to encourage viewers of pirated feeds to return to legitimate services is often overlooked but just as important. With an attractive mix of access and payment models, content providers and operators can turn the tide on hackers and play the system to their advantage, encouraging consumers to pay for legitimate services instead.
(Avigail Gutman is vice president of intelligence and security operations at Synamedia. The opinions expressed in the section are personal and Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to them..)