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Asian Media Firms Are Ignoring Cybersecurity Risks, Say Experts

Cybersecurity is still a low priority among media companies and consumers in Asia. That is despite large-scale hacking incidents that have been reported in the West in recent years, say industry experts.

They urge governments and stakeholders in Asia to step up measures to protect media companies from having their contacts hacked, and help consumers avoid harm from streaming or downloading free contents.

“Sometimes downloading or streaming something for nothing comes with a price,” says Neil Gane, GM for the Coalition Against Piracy at Asian pay-TV association CASBAA.

Citing a report by Sycamore Research, commissioned by CASBAA, Gane says 74% of self-confessed illicit consumers recognized that accessing pirated TV content placed them at greater risks from viruses, spyware or other malware. “However, their appetite for free or cheap subscriptions blinkers them from the very real risks of malware infection,” Gane says. “The urgency of the malware threat, and hackers targeting the piracy ecosystems’ click-happy user-base, needs to be better understood and dealt with by governments and stakeholders.”

Cases in the West should have served as lessons for media companies in Asia, according to Matt Pollins, partner at law firm CMS. The company recently released a cybersecurity toolkit for industry players to better equip themselves to deal with foreseeable crises.

The 2014 “Sony hack,” one of the worst cybersecurity breaches on record, caused the leakage of more than 170,000 emails, 30,000 private documents, and disclosure of 47,000 social security numbers at Sony Pictures. That resulted in an $8 million settlement with former and current employees, and sent a wake-up call through Hollywood. But its ripple effect has yet to reach Asia.

Pollins says cases of cybersecurity increased 25% in 2017. And they are serious. In 2015, France’s TV5Monde was hit by Russian hackers. “[The network] almost went out of business within a few hours,” said Pollins. “In August (2017), HBO’s Twitter account was compromised and some shows were released online.”

He said damages were severe – not only the leaking of high-value content, but also putting consumers at risk. “By distributing the content online via malware, consumers’ computers and personal data can be monitored.”

Pollins says awareness in Asia, however, is low. “The movie and media industries here are falling behind, compared to the financial, e-commerce and healthcare industries.”

And, while developed parts of Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, have legal frameworks to deal with such issues, much of Southeast Asia and Thailand do not have laws to protect their companies and consumers.

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