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January 21, 2021

Moving Beyond IP for Location Verification

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  • Media & Entertainment

Moving Beyond IP for Location Verification

There’s no doubt about it – we are living in the golden age of streaming. Unfortunately, broadcasters of premium streaming content are not the only ones whose businesses are booming. VPN providers, with ever-evolving techniques to spoof an IP address for the user to appear to be located somewhere else, are making out like bandits.

According to stats published in a recent report by the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA), the U.S. economy loses at least $29.2 billion in revenue due to piracy every year. So, as we look to the future of content protection, what can streaming services do to mitigate these losses as well as maintain their content’s value and uphold their contractual obligations with rightsholders?

The SVA report, “Securing Streaming Video,” recommends implementing a robust and layered security framework that includes tighter geographical barriers: “Poorly implemented restrictions allow consumers to access content outside the permitted territories for free and/or at a reduced price than the licensed distributor price (e.g., a boxing match in Ireland costs $25 vs. $80 for the same match in the US).”

Streaming Pirates Boldly Go Where They’re Not Permitted

The report also confirms what we’ve been saying for years: simply checking an IP address to determine the location of a viewer is insufficient, especially when it comes to protecting higher-value content. As the SVA states: “Addresses cannot be solely relied upon to make decisions as IP databases are often inaccurate and IP addresses can be masked with virtual private networks (VPNs).”

The SVA recommends for high-value content, streaming video broadcasters should use a higher level of location validation, such as HTML5 browser location data as well as a device’s Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular data, in order to confirm a user’s true location.

It is important to note that, in the same way that VPNs can spoof a user’s location via an IP address, there exists a number of fake location apps and spoofing techniques designed to circumvent these more advanced location validation methods including:

  • Disabling Wi-Fi and installing SIM cards from permitted territories
  • Downloading fake location apps or HTML5 browser add-ons to falsify coordinates
  • Streaming from a smartphone, where the IP shows up as the location where the phone is registered – not where the device actually is

The Next Generation of Content Protection

As the SVA recommends, the best way to prevent geo-piracy is to go beyond IP and incorporate HTML5, Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular data into the location validation solution. However, this needs to be coupled with additional fraud detection functionality that’s able to detect when the location details being received have been altered or that a fake location app has been installed.

Granted, this approach may seem a little heavy-handed for low-value content. But, as the SVA points out, when it comes to big-ticket sporting events and highly anticipated movie releases, not adopting stronger geolocation verification methods could cost studios, sports leagues, rightsholders and premium OTTs millions in lost revenue.

Helping the Streaming Ecosystem Live Long and Prosper

GeoGuard’s core geolocation and fraud detection technology was originally developed for the highly regulated and exacting U.S. online gaming market, where ensuring the true location of a player is critical to complying with state and federal laws. However, this technology is highly adaptable and configurable in order to meet the specific needs of the streaming video industry to combat the ongoing and evolving geo-piracy threat.

For example, our “Hollywood Studio Approved” and third-party tested VPN and DNS proxy detection solution is already used by broadcasters and premier OTT providers globally and integrated with world-leading CDNs including Akamai and Amazon AWS. And it’s the recommended solution of many studios, sports leagues, content creators and rightsholders.

But this is just the start of our mission, in terms of the advanced geolocation verification, fraud detection and content protection tools we can offer to the streaming video industry. As the SVA recommends, protecting high-value content requires going beyond IP, and GeoGuard has the proven tools, technology and expertise to help the entire streaming ecosystem live long and prosper.

To learn more, contact us at solutions@geocomply.com.