"Media industry suffered 17 bn credential stuffing attacks between Jan 2018 & Dec 2019"
Ever since the pandemic hit the world, working from home has become the new norm for most of them. And it is still likely to continue till a vaccine is discovered and the cases of COVID-19 comes down drastically. The content consumption habit of many during this lockdown has changed, with OTT consumption seeing tremendous traction. With IPL starting shortly and the consumption of OTT will only further expand and viewers will expect seamless and rich experience. So, when it comes to digital experience you need sound infrastructure, which will support the system and the platform and ensure that the experience is fast, smart and secured.
This is where Akamai Technologies secures and delivers digital experiences for the world’s largest companies. Akamai’s intelligent edge platform surrounds everything, from the enterprise to the cloud, so customers and their businesses can be fast, smart, and secure. Top brands globally rely and trust Akamai to help them realize competitive advantage through agile solutions that extend the power of their multi-cloud architectures. Akamai keeps decisions, apps, and experiences closer to users than anyone — and attacks and threats far away. Akamai’s portfolio of edge security, web and mobile performance, enterprise access, and video delivery solutions is supported by unmatched customer service, analytics, and 24/7/365 continuous monitoring.
In an exclusive conversation with Adgully, Mitesh Jain, Country Sales Manager – Media & Carriers Division, Akamai Technologies, speaks at length about their offerings and how they are delighting the customers with world class digital experience.
The pandemic has increased the consumption of OTT across the country. The need for a great viewing experience is what the viewers are looking for. How is Akamai helping here on the technology front and how have you beefed up your operations to provide seamless viewing experience?
The emergence of OTT platforms has disrupted the way viewers consume content and we are seeing a lot of transformation in the media business. The change is driven by consumer expectations, viewing habits, and broadband adoption. We have been working with various content providers to help support the surge of users from across Indiato provide a reliable online broadcasting system that is at par with traditional broadcast while providing a higher quality and rich user experience.
Akamai’s Media Delivery solutions provide high-quality delivery experiences for viewers, regardless of their location or device type, and across a variety of network types. Akamai’s flagship delivery solution – Adaptive Media Delivery – is an origin-agnostic, secure video streaming solution built on Akamai’s global content delivery network; optimised for adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming to deliver pre-segmented HTTP-based Live and On-Demand media, including support for industry-leading video formats.
For live streaming content like live sports, Akamai Media solutions provide purpose-built origin services to provide unmatched reliability, consistency, and scale. Media Services Live helps content providers ingest and prepare their live streams to provide a smooth viewing experience. The solution also offers several purpose-built capabilities known as liveOrigin, which operate in concert to provide broadcast-quality live streaming.
Another technology that is particularly helpful for customers to manage spikes in demand during live sporting events is Cloud Wrapper. Cloud Wrapper provides high availability and consistent performance during live events by acting as a custom caching layer between cloud origins and Akamai to optimise the connectivity and offload. Cloud Wrapper shields the customer’s cloud infrastructure from overload due to the spikes in traffic and also helps reduce the egress costs from the public clouds by retrieving content from the origin as few times as possible.
Live events are slowly resuming. Since many may not be able to watch it live the demand for viewing live on TV and other platforms will go up. How Akamai as a technology partner to many OTT players and channels is going to scale up the operations to ensure there is a seamless viewing experience?
Video streaming habits have dramatically changed from on-demand only consumption to a scenario where more live content is being consumed. With sports and lockdowns, more consumers have moved their consumption to living rooms as more affordable devices and lower cost of high-quality bandwidth become the norm. With consumer enthusiasm high for live video streaming, quality of experience (QoE) would have to be exceptional – at least on the same level as broadcast. But that has not always been the case. Scalability issues sometimes cause end-users to experience poor quality viewing experience while watching live OTT services. The OTT players need to have a robust platform that is as reliable as it is resilient.
Planning for large scale events has begun well in advance to ensure Akamai and our clients are well prepared and able to cater to the surging needs for any large-scale event. We work with our customers to understand their customer base and plan the network topologies to ensure a seamless viewing experience for the end user. We help our customers rout traffic to the most optimal location since we peer with almost all the ISP’s in all circles. We also have a Broadcast operation control center (BOCC) where we actively monitor large sporting events.
Are you planning to bring in any new innovative products as technology keeps changing? What is the new trend one is seeing in the storage and the distribution world?
At Akamai, we are seeing some key product and innovation themes for the Media Business in 2020 and beyond.
First and foremost is helping our media customers provide a high-quality video delivery performance for theirend-users to ensure best-in-class viewing experience for them. There is a lot of emphasis and investment on consistent, reliable, and fast content delivery at scale using multiple platform and protocol optimisations.
The second area of focus for us in 2020 and beyond is providing customers greater visibility into our platform by enabling better visibility on delivery performance and CDN health and there are a few projects underway to provide low latency raw log data into platform performance at scale along with providing visibility into individual user requests and server-side platform performance data.
The third area of focus is to provide customers better control of their infrastructure and help them optimise their operational architectures and costs by capabilities to improve offload, reduce origin hits, improve performance using reserved capacity and dedicated hyperlocal caches, etc.
The fourth area is the API performance. We see a big jump in API-based traffic for our media organisations, be it API calls for user validation, content or ad requests or any other form of workflow operation. So, managing the huge volume of API requests and traffic at scale is an emerging area of investment.
And finally, which is even more relevant in Asian countries, that is, helping customers protect their content against piracy, content access from illegit users or unauthorised regions.
Security is a huge concern in the broadcasting space. How are you addressing this challenge to ensure that there is no onslaught of attacks to the platform which will disrupt the services? What kind of technology do you deploy to strengthen your security?
Streaming platforms have now become an indispensable consideration for content owners since viewers are preferring to watch their favourite movies and series on the go. With the advancement of technology, hackers are always trying to look for favourable intrusions in digital media. Keeping content piracy proof is one of the prominent challenges that content owners face as brands need to keep their information tamper-proof against security threats.
According to the Akamai report, the stealing of premium content is in real danger as they should employ an ongoing process to protect it against unauthorised usage and distribution. The media industry suffered 17 billion credential stuffing attacks between January 2018 and December 2019, 20 per cent of the 88 billion total attacks recorded. India has experienced significant year-over-year growth on security threats targeted at publishing, streaming, and video media. Criminals are targeting organisations with access to assets that people are willing to pirate, extending from movies and television shows to sports and music. Organisations also face challenges in implementing technologies to assert control over access and usage.
There are 3 types of security goals, which most of these media companies have.
To prevent their services from going down or any kind of service disruption as it definitely has an adverse impact on the end-user perception of the brand and also has a quantifiable revenue loss associated with it. A few examples of the attack types that might be responsible for service disruption would be DDoS attacks or some other kind of bot or malware and ransomware attacks.
How to prevent loss of customer sensitive information, or PII data as we call it, in the industry? We come across a lot of use cases where we see internal data or customer data being stolen for ransom requests or by professional cybercriminals who might want to sell it in the grey market or to deface the brand itself. As governments across the world are tightening regulations around safeguarding user privacy, safeguarding user data is becoming mission-critical for digital-native businesses.
Prevent loss of content itself from corruption or content theft, online piracy and content access by illegit users and access from restricted regions by use of VPNs or proxies.
Based on these security goals, media businesses today need to think about or implement 3 types of security technologies to ensure a 360-degree security posture.
They need infrastructure security solutions like Firewalls, DDoS protection, Bot protection and origin shielding solutions to safeguard themselves against different types of infrastructure security issues. They would also need User Data protection solutions like Customer Identity Management, Privacy Controls and Fraud Protection to safeguard the customer sensitive data and PII data. Finally, they would need content protection solutions like Tokenization, Media Encryption, Geo or IP based restrictions to safeguard themselves against content piracy, link sharing and ensure rights obligations are met.
Akamai’s approach to media content security is to provide a robust content protection solution to prevent content piracy, unauthorised access and maximise monetisation opportunities for media customers. Some of the capabilities of our media content security solution are listed below:
User Authentication that provides a lightweight method for content authentication using tokens to prevent unauthorised sharing of links.
Geo Restrictions, which will allow organizations to check a requesting IP address against a proxy database to validate its association with an anonymous proxy or a VPN services. Media Encryption helps media companies protect against piracy or unauthorised viewing by securing the video segments delivered to viewers using the AES 128 encryption standard.
There are two new capabilities as part of the content security portfolio – Access Revocation, that provides the ability for customers to revoke an active video streaming session in real-time that is either unauthorised or is the source of piracy and Content Watermarking, Akamai’s Watermarking is a 2-Step watermarking solution that provides an edge function to do AB switching on the edge of the network to detect piracy and leakage in content consumption from unauthorised sources.
How are you different from your competition when it comes to providing your services? Is there any cutting-edge technology that Akamai provides to its customers for them to stay loyal and keep scaling up the requirements from time to time?
Akamai has a 360-degree approach to Innovation. We have been investing in R&D in a few strategic industries and technologies including Blockchain, Security, Network optimisations and delivery technologies.
Next Generation Offerings
Akamai, along with MUFG, has been a pioneer in the Blockchain space with the Akamai and MUFG Joint Venture announcement, the Global Open Network, Inc. or GO-NET initiative that plans to offer a new blockchain-based online payment network.
In the Security domain, Akamai has been innovating a lot specifically in areas like Protection for Apps and APIs, stopping Credential Abuse, adopting Zero Trust security architecture and media content protection. Akamai was recognised by Gartner as a Leader in the 2018 Magic Quadrant for Web Application Firewalls for the second year in a row. Gartner analysts evaluated 14 vendors, based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision.
We have been investing heavily in the IoT domain with our Over the Air (OTA) updates and IoT Edge connect offering and are also, making prioritising investments in a few industries like AdTech and Cloud Gaming, which are expected to help customers in these industries provide high-quality seamless end user experiences for their consumers.
Over the years, Akamai has gained significant experience working with and customising network protocols. Akamai has developed three proprietary congestion control algorithms and to date supports at least six. Akamai participates in standards bodies and continues to experiment with and add a variety of new protocols and technologies such as QUIC, BBR and packet pacing which helps improve the end user experience. Akamai utilises a pragmatic approach with protocols and congestion controls deploying them on a per customer basis to best suit a customer’s delivery use cases to achieve the best possible end-user experience for each end-user.
On the performance end, Akamai is helping improve the first mile connectivity with Direct Connect, Enhancing the network performance and middle mile logistics using the TCP pacing initiative and enabling ultra-low latency capability for customer using CMAF chunked based transfer encoding. Akamai is also investing in new age delivery technologies, including 5G capabilities to significantly reduce the network resources needed to reliably deliver live-streamed video with consistently high quality.
The other area where Akamai has been making significant progress and investment is around DevOps and APIs. Akamai’s ever-growing suite of powerful APIs offers developers fine-grained control and the ability to scale to meet any business need. Akamai for DevOps makes it seamless and easy for developers to incorporate powerful cloud tools and technologies directly into existing CI/CD workflows for maximum speed and efficiency in the software development lifecycle. Akamai offers APIs for customers to perform content delivery tasks programmatically via the command linewith simple invocations inside of the open-source Akamai CLI interface, which serves as a wrapper around Akamai APIs to simplify usage.
Customer centricity is the core of any business. So how do you manage your customer issues, support, and grievance as most of your customers work on a mission-critical scenario?
For any business to grow, they must understand the customer and their requirements. At Akamai, we provide managed services for our clients. Our clients have 24/7 access to technical experts and other diagnostic tools via the Akamai Control Center. With our managed services, customers have the advantage of the following:
- Efficient additions/ changes with self-service provisioning and management tools
- Control of their online business through Akamai Control Center
- Insight into their operations with the reporting
- Increased availability and response to issues
- Self-sufficient with online troubleshooting and diagnostic tools
Finally, to the end customer how does Akamai help? How do you keep addressing their pain areas?
The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the pace of behavioral changes around the world in how people live their lives – how they work, eat, communicate, play, and learn. The digital transformation is a challenging endeavour and there are unforeseen issues that can come up. For organisations, the focus is on their digital transformation strategies and how to engage with their customers while enabling their remote workforce.
Akamai has helped these organisations to scale and cater to the growing demands of the increasingly aspirational internet user by ensuring a seamless viewing experience to the end user. Regardless of the network situation and geographical presence of the end user, Akamai ensuresthe content is seamlessly viewed by the end user. We also help our customers apply adaptive bitrate logic which helps plays any video regardless of the network at the consumer end.
End users also have been doing a lot more transactions online, thus it becomes critical to ensure privacy while safeguarding them from the bad agents out there after your personal data and information.