Who owns the digital home?

A Rapid TV News ‘Round Table’ which focused on Conditional Access security in the home saw panellists urge caution in a rush towards common standards for anti-piracy measures.

David Whittaker, director/Business Development & Advance Technologies at NDS, and Ivan Verbesselt, SVP at Nagravision, part of the Kudelski Group, participated in the Rapid Round Table. Normally the two are tough commercial rivals in the CA market, but showed a remarkable amount of agreement at the Round Table that went well beyond the usual business courtesies. Both agreed that common standards were vital to progress in underpinning broadcasting security. “[The standards] are very advantageous but we do have a view that the actual secret essence, which is the aspect of the security itself, the techniques of deployment should be standardised but the actual specific secrets should not, because if those secrets are standardised they are much more likely to be compromised,” stated David Whittaker.

Nagra’s Ivan Verbesselt agreed, but warned that the industry was naively over-standardising, and this was potentially dangerous. “I know specifically in our industry there’s a real risk there of just walking along with naivety and assuming that someone else is going to solve the issues.”

Specifically, Verbesselt was concerned about the core function of Conditional Access, and the inevitable risk from piracy. “What we all know, and it’s a reality of our business, is that piracy is a reality in our business and any security infrastructure has a certain lifetime, a certain life cycle, and within that lifetime operators need to make money. This is just what the whole service is about, and companies like us are primarily there to extend that life cycle to what is economically viable, if you compare it to the investment.”

He adds that if attempts are made to standardise to this level there are risks. “At one point you’ll have to make sure that you re-secure a system which is maybe getting at the end of its lifetime, so how do you do that? You will do that either practically, because you feel that you may want to secure it even before a tipping point of piracy [occurs], or when the tipping point is there you may want to make sure it’s just controlled again. Well, who is going to take ownership? If the whole knowledge and the whole in-depth knowledge of what is being secured is owned not by a company - and a company alongside an operator - but by a consortium or even a whole industry, who is going to take ownership? To me it looks like a very thinly spread form of ownership, which is just no ownership at all.”