Last updated at Thu, 22 Dec 2022 20:12:43 GMT

How Crown Media protects its crown jewel

It’s that time of year again…chestnuts roasting on an open-fire, kids making wish-lists, and company holiday parties where you can showcase your most outlandish ugly sweater. It’s also the time of year we all get a little bit less cynical and take in a cheesy holiday movie or two. Enter Crown Media Family Networks and its holiday hitmaker, Hallmark Channel.

Hallmark Channel—and its streaming counterparts like Hallmark Movies Now—are unique in the entertainment world. The company provides year-round programming and has many fans the world over, but the end-of-the-year holiday season is when its content really pops off. Holiday-season die-hards show up for cheesily-wistful-yet-earnest films that have become a cottage industry and an annual jingle-bell juggernaut.

In 2021, Hallmark Channel finished as the number one network among “women 18 and above”, which led to $147.8 million in revenue generated from holiday programming alone. It’s safe to assume the company doesn’t want intellectual property (IP) theft cutting into those kinds of returns.

Cloud-based content delivery

Here’s a scary-sounding sentence for those wary of vulnerabilities: Hallmark Channel’s entire content library is managed in the cloud. Cloud has obvious advantages for any organization, like quick-scaling and not having to build on-prem systems from the ground up. However, it can also increase risk to intellectual property:

  • High-risk resources open to the public internet: If a particular cloud instance becomes accessible by anyone on the internet, revenue-generating IP may be compromised.
  • Increased complexity: IP can be spread across multiple clouds in multiple locations. This makes identity management critical—who has access? Why do they need access? Where are they located?
  • Delayed remediation: So the risk has been identified. But, how old is the data on which the remediation workflow is based? 6 hours? 12 hours? More? This significantly detracts from the efficiency of the remediation.


Holidays are a particularly busy time for threat actors. So, how do media companies like Hallmark Channel (or any organization) protect their intellectual property?  

  • Create a cybersecurity IP legal and strategic framework: According to the American Bar Association, film and TV studios should avoid single-event approaches to IP theft and create a framework that prioritizes strategic management of risk in the long term. Treating the risk of IP theft as systemic will yield benefits like faster mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to respond (MTTR).  
  • Address supply chain issues: Creating big-budget Hollywood content can involve hundreds of vendors and partnerships. Obviously, not everything can be taken in-house. Therefore it’s critical that a company like Hallmark Channel creates a process whereby each outside vendor’s IT and security is thoroughly vetted prior to engagement of services.
  • Implement a disaster recovery solution: Modern cloud playout to streaming services must continue uninterrupted, so media organizations must build redundancy into their content delivery systems. A disaster recovery solution that protects data, enables rapid restore, and offers failover capability is critical.
  • Keep clouds confidential: When the people that need to approve a cut of an in-progress TV show or film are scattered all over the world, a digital copy is uploaded onto what is essentially a public-facing cloud so they can access it, just like digital collaboration in any number of other industries. For holiday event films driving ratings and subscriber numbers however, that sort of collaboration can leave highly valuable content open to vulnerabilities and theft. Solutions like InsightCloudSec by Rapid7 can help to lock down identity and access management (IAM) protocols, as well as manage risk with real-time context across infrastructure, orchestration, workload, and data tiers.  

Making film and TV projects is a painstaking, long, and laborious process. All of the hard work by hundreds of people that goes into each project can be devalued by attackers in the blink of an eye. So to all cybersecurity professionals who are also major fans of holiday films and TV shows, let’s take up the call: Protect the IP!

You can read the previous entry in this blog series here.