The phenomenon of “card-sharing” or “control word sharing” poses a major threat. Card sharing is a method by which independent receivers obtain simultaneous access to pay television services, using one legitimate conditional access subscription card. Typically, the legitimate card is attached to a personal computer or an unauthorised set top box (STB) which is connected to the Internet, and is configured to provide the legitimately decrypted control word to other receivers who request the information. This decrypted control word is then used to decode an encrypted conditional access service, as though each other receiver were using its own legitimate subscription card. The process uses online connectivity, distributes the software that allows card sharing by online means and are then sold by online services. Software enabling cardsharing is widely available on the internet, and with regard to ‘commercial’ cardsharing activity, subscriptions to commercial networks are also sold online. Card sharing takes place for both commercial and non-commercial purposes (often via social networks). In essence, cardsharing enables the services of one properly authorised smartcard to be shared with others who are not authorised to access the broadcaster’s encrypted content. To all intents and purposes (but particularly in a commercial environment), it amounts to theft.

Investigations by AAPA members indicate that not only is card sharing very lucrative but also the illegal proceeds from card sharing can be amassed very quickly. Moreover, card sharing can be seen as a truly international example of cybercrime with multiple illegal transactions taking place and participants to an illegal server gaining unauthroised access to content from diverse territorities, within the EU and beyond. Attention is focussed in areas where there is a low risk of legal action: hence, the importance of ensuring an effective legal framework in the EU and global co-operation. The anonymity provided by the internet is attractive to the criminal element involved in cardsharing, making the identification and prosecution of offenders challenging.