Italian authorities have said that they have helped smash what they called “the world’s largest” pirate streaming TV network, with five million customers in Italy alone. The gang’s platform decrypted copyright protected television images and re-broadcast them on the internet on a wide scale.
The signal of pay-TV broadcasters (Sky; DAZN; Mediaset; Netflix etc.) was spread through numerous sites to which almost five million users were “subscribers”; the turnover was around two million euros a month.
Disruption is already being reported by IPTV sellers utilizing the Xtream Codes system, but it is believed that other systems are also now offline.
Germany, France and the Netherlands shut down around 200 servers as part of the operation. Law officers also seized hardware and shut down 800 internet sites used to re-broadcast channels. 150 PayPal accounts have also been identified and blocked. So far 22 people are believed to be involved, but this number may increase.
The scheme was first discovered when police raided a home in Naples, where they found that the criminals used a new system to infiltrate legitimate pay-per-view channels. Once the signal was intercepted, it was re-routed through internet servers in the Netherlands and France and then sent to viewers.
Italian police stormed various locations while police in Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands also carried out raids coordinated by the EU’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.
A video made available by the GdF in respect of the operation is shown below. The video shows what appears to be a ‘pirate’ IPTV provider being taken down.
The piracy operation was allegedly created by two Greek nationals, said Valeria Sico, deputy prosecutor at the public prosecutions office in Naples. Italian media reported that the network’s mastermind had been arrested in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The history behind this goes back to 2015 when the group started illegally re-broadcasting and selling pay-per-view products and services, similar to the ones offered by Sky Italia, Mediaset Premium, Netflix, Dazon, and Infinity in various Member States and third countries. The well-skilled criminals used the most sophisticated and efficient software for the fraud.
Several retransmission stations were set up with special servers to disable the encryption of the original programmes and generate the illegal IPTV signal in violation of intellectual property law. The gang members offered to a wide audience of unknowing clients actual pay-tv programmes, cinematographic works and on-demand content at a very low price. The illegally obtained assets were subsequently transferred to foreign bank accounts.
Those responsible for the piracy face up to three years in prison and a fine of €25,000.
People who bought illegal subscriptions will be prosecuted, officers said.