Playout & Transmission Global Viewpoint – October 2020

Home Media Security

Although many broadcasters are now operating with skeleton services within their facilities, the necessity for home working has changed the operational landscape forever. With this in mind, and with home working not looking to change in the foreseeable future, what security considerations do we need to evaluate for our new way of working?

I believe IP is one of the most important advances in the history of television. It’s completely content agnostic and is ubiquitous throughout the world due to the proliferation of the internet and the widescale adoption of enterprise IP networks. We finally have the opportunity to cast off the baggage of our past and not worry about backwards compatibility. We can even dump interlace, once and for all!

IP has literally opened the world to us and working from home has merely accelerated broadcast adoption. We have learned much from the IT industry and have been able to ride on the crest of its innovation. However, with opportunity comes new challenges.

Historically, broadcast innovators have continually worked at the limits of technology and focused their time and effort on making systems work. Maybe, with this in mind, we could have given infrastructure security a bit more attention.

In recent years we’ve made massive advances in developing encryption to reduce piracy and breaches of copyright. In part, this has been motivated by the adoption of internet distribution through OTT and VOD, and satellite broadcasting where entire continents can receive content. But whatever the reason, it’s now time to consider the next phase of security, that is, working from home.

Using proxy files and cloud computing, studio crews, graphic artists and editors have been able to make television from home. Generally speaking, we’re not pumping HD and 4K baseband video and its associated audio into our homes, but we do have access to the networks that store them. And it’s this access that needs much closer scrutiny.

If you’re lucky, then during lockdown your IT department would have set you up for home working with a VPN connection (virtual private network) to the broadcast facility. Although this is secure in its own right, it does have some limitations, especially if you use your computer for more general use. Email and web surfing are two well-known vulnerabilities where malicious actors lurk and if they gain access to your computer can then potentially gain access to the broadcasters’ infrastructure.

One solution to improving security is to make the broadcasters systems web access only. The reduced type of access available through web-browser type technology makes it much easier for IT departments to maintain high levels of security. However, many legacy broadcast applications are only available as stand-alone desktop apps. These are further compromised if the vendor is no longer supporting them.

It’s unlikely that we will all return to working back in the studio permanently any time soon, so this means we really have to take a closer look at our home-worker broadcast services security. We’ve made outstanding improvements to both media encryption technology and our attitudes to it in recent years. But we now must apply the same innovation and attitudes to how we interact with our broadcast infrastructure processes from home.

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