For the past several years, authorities in Italy have regularly announced operations that aimed to disrupt the supply and use of pirate IPTV services.
After a series of similar actions, in 2021 it was claimed that ‘Operation Black Out‘ had shut down a network responsible for around 80% of the illegal supply in the country. This January, another operation led to the claimed dismantling of a network servicing 500,000 customers.
These reported successes may have disrupted supply but rightsholders are still unhappy. Last week, CEO of football league Serie A blamed IPTV pirates for a 300 million euro black hole in revenues, something that may have played a role in Italian authorities conducting a new crackdown with an unusual component.
New Guardia di Finanza Operation
The special technology fraud unit of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a law enforcement agency under the authority of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, is reported to have carried out a new operation as football fans prepared for the end of the Serie A football championship.
In addition to either blocking or seizing sites and servers relating to the sale and distribution of pirate IPTV services, police also took the opportunity to give thousands of pirates an unwelcome surprise.
“In anticipation of the last day of the Serie A football championship and the Conference League final, the IT specialists of the Fiamme Gialle have registered hundreds of new services and resources dedicated to the sale of IPTV activities through illegal streaming,” a GdF statement reads.
The Gruppi Sportivi Fiamme Gialle is the sports division of the Italian police force, with team members competing in athletics, rowing, skiing and other sports including judo and karate. In this instance, however, they were lying in wait as IPTV pirates scooped up an enticing offer.
The ‘Official Application’ subscription package offered every regular TV channel and subscription TV service at the “ridiculously low price” of six euros and promised access on devices including TVs, phones, tablets, and computers. Police say it was advertised on Telegram channels, some with as many as 20,000 users, with a free trial and guaranteed anonymity to put subscribers at ease.
Meanwhile, GdF officers were engaged in parallel IPTV disruption activities. They say more than 500 web resources relating to pirate IPTV were seized or blocked, including over 150 websites and 40 Telegram channels. In addition, 310+ pieces of IPTV infrastructure, including primary and balancing servers distributing illegal streams, were taken offline.
Italian police don’t go into specifics so the precise mechanism of what came next is unclear. However, the suggestion is that through seized IPTV infrastructure, police were able to track people who tried to access illegal streams via ‘Applicazione Ufficiale’ subscriptions.
“In fact, a real tracking system was implemented which made it possible to identify the users of the pirate streams. Anyone who tried to connect to the pirated service was immediately redirected to a special information panel that warned that the site, through which the program was being viewed, was seized and the connection data traced,” GdF says.
Police ‘Discover’ Stream Creed
Back in 2019, police in Italy announced a huge anti-piracy operation that targeted, among other things, the company operating popular IPTV service management system Xtream Codes. The software/system offered a comprehensive package that allowed people to manage their own IPTV reselling service and its customers but according to police, Xtream Codes acted illegally.
Almost three years later, there is no news of subsequent charges, if any, but there have been accusations that the team behind Xtream Codes remained in the business with a similar product called Xtream UI. That claim was subsequently denied by the Xtream Codes team and it appears police now have a new and related discovery on their hands.
“The consequent analyzes carried out by the investigators have, at present, made it possible to ascertain the existence of a new management system for IT flows, called ‘Stream Creed’, which appears to derive from the source code of the already known ‘Xtream Codes’, a worldwide pirate platform dismantled by the same Special Unit in 2019,” GdF says.
The suggestion that police IT specialists only just discovered the existence of this software seems unlikely. The Stream Creed platform has been discussed in IPTV communities for at least two years accompanied by videos on sites including YouTube.
But whether the Stream Creed discovery is new or old, DAZN – which secured rights to broadcast Serie A matches in a $3 billion deal in 2021 – is happy with the outcome of the operation.
“We renew our full support to the law enforcement agencies who are committed every day to countering the phenomenon of piracy which every year generates enormous damage to our country system, with a particular impact on the media and entertainment industry and on end customers,” says DAZN CEO Stefano Azzi.
“Piracy affects the whole world of OTT players, not just DAZN. With the diversification of platforms and channels, the methods of piracy also change. DAZN’s anti-piracy division and its partners are already working to stop thousands of instances through law enforcement, injunctions and continuous innovation to protect subscribers.”