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Irdeto puts Cloakware center stage in OTT video systems

Irdeto bought Canadian company Cloakware in the dying days of 2007 and this week built its Over The Top strategy around the software company

By PETER WHITE

Published: 3 March, 2011

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Irdeto bought Canadian company Cloakware in the dying days of 2007 and this week built its Over The Top strategy around the software company. Cloakware designs secure containers or secure kernels, which run on all major portable operating systems, so that the DRM and other programs above it are tougher to hack.

With the release this week of ActiveCloak for Media, Irdeto is trying to spin it that it constitutes a major rethink for approaching the protection of commercial media, because it can underpin content that comes for multiple sources, and runs on multiple devices, with downloadable, and therefore software only, DRM systems. What it is not saying, but which must be clearly part and parcel of this approach, is that it can be priced in such a way that it can work just as easily with TV Everywhere approaches which are given away for free, as well as paid OTT services.

US Rival Widevine has taken most of the headlines for TV Everywhere content protection so far, and has acknowledged that pricing needs a different approach in order to reflect the new TV Everywhere business models.

The ActiveCloak for Media idea is being pushed like it is an anti-virus software, with a lightweight downloadable client (complete with what it calls agents) being able to block the illegal saving of streamed media or hacking of downloaded media, which also recognizes and logs when an attempt has been made to break into the content, and then blocks future attempts. It includes the concept of frequent updates, like virus signatures, but made up instead of new algorithms which change the way keys are derived and put in place specific protections for any hacking attempts.

Renewable software security is not new, but Irdeto has been one of the leaders in it, though the idea of slamming the door shut after detecting any attempt to put encrypted content in the clear, and then initiating a software download to provide a replacement tool or decryption key, is new. Most renewable systems require sending an update to every device whenever a weakness is found, but by the description this looks like the client refuses to play content until it has had an update, so it is triggered by a client agent.

The reason that it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on here is because Irdeto hasn’t put any white papers on its web site explaining this in detail, but it has put up a few diagrams listing all the jobs that Cloakware has to do, including offering APIs to billing and content management systems, and we get the feeling that Irdeto might be just as happy to host this as a service for operator clients, as it would to simply sell the tools.

Irdeto say that this system answers the question of how you can keep Hollywood happy when content is being delivered over the Internet and stored on portable devices in untrusted environments? Which, after all, is the Holy Grail in this market. Even the DLNA has not managed to get Hollywood to say that it’s okay to keep content copies on portable devices, which is why the DTCP-IP protection it uses is purely for streamed content, not downloaded.

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