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Broadcast technologies were originally isolated islands. In today’s world, they are now interconnected. Let’s examine why this trend exists and why increased risk is associated with it. We will look at three points of view: the broadcaster’s, the consumer’s, and the hacker’s.

From a broadcaster’s point of view, connectivity is advantageous towards creating and delivering a faster broadcast, as well as enabling broadcasters to deliver more services to a growing base of consumers.

For example, specialized websites and mobile applications help broadcasters increase their relevance in the eyes of the consumer, who in turn gains a greater amount of content. This consumer reach is what advertisers want to hear from the broadcasters, for advertising is a strong revenue stream for that type of profession.

From a consumer’s view, interconnected broadcasts make additional content and services available on a range of mediums, including mobile phone, TV, laptop, etc. Content is always available – anywhere, anytime. As a consumer myself, I can say that my day would not be the same without broadcast services.

From a hacker’s point of view, this connectivity introduces another target to conquer. There are a range of nefarious motivations for doing so.

For instance, the hacker could bring down the network and encrypt the broadcast files for ransom. Hackers could also manipulate broadcasting content, as a group of pro-ISIS supporters did in the TV5MONDE incident last April. Finally, they could steal customer data for member subscription services and then either sell victims’ identities or use their credit card data to make fraudulent purposes.

Now, how do these types of attacks affect consumers and broadcasters?

Let’s begin with consumers. Those who are “customers” of broadcast services lose their source of entertainment and education. Some might argue that this is not awful for lazy couch potatoes out there. But broadcasting does fulfill certain vital functions.

For example, broadcast systems are often used for emergency alert systems. That means that if a broadcast is not available during a large emergency, thousands if not millions of people might lack the necessary information to prepare for a potentially life-threatening situation.

For their part, broadcasters could lose millions of viewers to other channels in the event their services are not available. This can, in certain situations, translate into lost consumer confidence and advertising revenue.

Steve Woznaik, co-founder of Apple, said it best a couple days ago: “Cyber threats are the greatest threat since the atomic bomb.” That saying applies to organizations of every kind, including broadcasters.

Governments are very concerned about broadcasters and their digital security. In the United States, for instance, the FCC has recommended that broadcasters strive to align their policies with the NIST Cybersecurity framework. Tripwire has an answer to this recommendation, and its sister company Grass Valley is also taking steps to protect evolving production systems.

Protecting your current IT environment is critical because the hacker can enter from there and traverse to a production environment that has some IP connectivity. Now, some may say the firewall will protect this from happening. That is true in most cases, but there have been some occasions where this wasn’t true.

Attackers can get in via other means, such as your production staff clicking on a phishing email, inadvertently downloading some malware from a malicious website, or loading up a malware-ridden application on an USB stick.

As a result, one needs ongoing monitoring of all IP assets. And the monitoring should be automated to detect threats faster and with more precision.

There is no industry immune to cyber threats. The broadcast industry, like all industries, needs ongoing security awareness for their management and employees. The benefits of moving to IP must be weighed with the associated risks. To counter known and unknown threats, security must be a woven into their DNA at the system, and people-level.


Title image courtesy of ShutterStock