Advanced Television

GeoComply fights residential IP address hijack threat

July 26, 2022

Geolocation security specialist GeoComply has unveiled what it says  an industry-first technology for streaming providers that tightens the net around pirate viewers. The enhancement to GeoGuard allows streaming providers to block the growing number of VPN users who spoof their location using hijacked residential IP addresses. In addition to reducing the burden on providers’ infrastructure and CDN capacity, this technology is designed to ensure video service providers comply with their contractual agreements with rights holders.

GeoComply estimates that over 200 million Internet users worldwide are unknowingly the victim of residential proxy IP abuse. Their IP addresses are used to bypass VPN restrictions and access territorially-restricted content, contributing to the streaming piracy that threatens the media and entertainment ecosystem. This happens because users sign up for a free VPN or DNS proxy service without reading the terms and conditions that allow the VPN provider to sublease the IP address allocated by their ISP to their home or business. IP addresses are also hijacked during cyber-attacks that infect a user’s device with Trojan code or malware, and connect it to a botnet.

Free VPN providers profit by selling hijacked residential IP addresses to the highest bidder, usually a provider of ‘undetectable’ premium VPN services. These services give subscribers the ability to spoof their location using the hijacked addresses.

According to Surfshark in 2022, 31 per cent of all Internet users have a VPN, with nearly 70 per cent opting for free services – those most at risk of having their IP address stolen. 51 per cent of VPN users – equating to 700 million people – say they use a VPN to access better entertainment content, including streaming services and pay-per-view events that are either not available in their country or are more expensive locally, according to GWI. For example, viewers in the US who want to subscribe to the NBA’s League Pass pay $199.99 (€195.27) each year, while in India it only costs 1,500 rupees or $19.

“A recent report from Kantar finds that more than 1.5 million fewer people now subscribe to streaming services in the UK compared to Q4 2021,” notes James Clark, general manager of media & entertainment at GeoComply. “More than a third of these losses could be attributed to families trying to cut costs. We believe the problem of hijacked residential IPs will only increase as viewers turn to VPNs to find cheaper subscriptions in other territories or use them to access pirated services. To combat this problem, we can now accurately detect users accessing streaming services using hijacked residential IP addresses to help uphold the territorial licensing models our customers depend on.”

Through its industry monitoring, GeoComply has identified 17 companies selling residential proxy IPs, including Bright Data (Luminati), Oxylabs and SmartProxy. Bright Data alone offers over 72 million addresses for sale.

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