Can’t get Star Wars trailer? Blame Canada

A Canadian company has developed a security system that protects previews and special events footage as they’re beamed from satellites directly into cinema-house projector rooms.

Certicom Corp., a Mississauga, Ont. company specializing in cryptography, said last month that New York-based Regal CineMedia Corp. (RCM) chose Certicom’s standards-based security platform to make sure no one is able to crack the data stream flowing from Earth-orbiting satellites into Regal’s movie theatres.

RCM is a subsidiary of Regal Entertainment Group, the largest theatre operator in the world. It operates more than 6,000 movie screens in the U.S.

According to Certicom spokesperson Brendan Ziolo, RCM sought a protection system that kept content safe from prying eyes, but also didn’t adversely affect the audience’s experience.

“Securing content is great, but if you were going to get breaks in the video feed, or it was going to take forever to decrypt the content, it’s not really going to fly. One of our abilities is making security smaller and faster.”

RCM runs a “Digital Content Network” distribution system, which can validate, manage and control content to more than 5,000 movie screens. This content network transmits movie previews and special sports programming to the screens today, although Ziolo figures it won’t be long before companies like RCM start using satellites to transport feature films on a regular basis.

“(Star Wars creator George) Lucas shot Star Wars in digital format. Ten years from now I bet you everything will be shot in digital format. So why not transmit it digitally? But that does present a lot of opportunities for hacking and theft.”

The Certicom protection platform stores data in its encrypted state right up until show time. Then the system feeds the files into digital projectors. Ziolo said Certicom’s security system for RCM employs Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) technology, as well as customized code specifically for the movie house operator. Certicom amended its cryptography toolkit, Security Builder Crypto, to meet RCM’s requirements: tight security that works so quickly that the video feed remains high in quality.

Although it’s only meant for previews and sports event footage, RCM’s digital content network still carries some awfully valuable information, Ziolo said, explaining why the client was concerned about protection in the first place. For instance, “there’s a lot of hype right now around the trailer for the new Star Wars movie. You don’t want that appearing on someone’s Web site before it appears in theatres.”

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