Digital Fingerprinting Forensics for Multimedia
Prof. Min Wu &
As industry and government rely increasingly on digitized content, the problem of protecting electronic assets is growing more and more challenging. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the recording industry loses about $4.2 billion each year to piracy worldwide, and according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), studios lose more than $3 billion in potential revenue annually from piracy. Recent headlines have documented a new generation of cyber criminals who work together to engage in multimedia piracy, unauthorized data dissemination and security leaks.
|Dr. Min Wu
The Clark School’s Min Wu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and K.J. Ray Liu, professor in ECE and the Institute for Systems Research, are developing innovative new “cyber forensics” technologies that not only protect digital resources but also trace those who attempt to steal or misuse them through sophisticated “collusion attacks,” a common piracy method used by today’s cyber thieves. Collusion attacks occur when multiple users conspire to electronically steal and distribute copyrighted or classified material, diluting or erasing the original digital ID, or fingerprint, from the stolen multimedia content to avoid implication.
Wu and Liu’s new, interdisciplinary digital fingerprinting technology uses anti-collusion codes (ACC) to protect multimedia content without compromising the quality of the multimedia product or inhibiting legitimate uses.
This powerful new technology, documented in the researchers’ 2006 book, Multimedia Fingerprinting Forensics for Traitor Tracing, could help interests as varied as those of Hollywood and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Film and recording industries, for example, want to better protect the commercial copyrights of their products, which are distributed both domestically and abroad over the Internet and via satellites. They are actively seeking technologies that will individually and invisibly protect products without resorting to controversial methods that add programs to individuals’ computers or alter them in other ways.
The Maryland engineers’ digital fingerprinting method avoids this unpopular result. Wu and Liu’s work protects multimedia content from unauthorized redistribution by embedding a unique ID that leaves a distinct fingerprint on each user’s copy. This ID can accurately identify which users have contributed to a piracy attack. They have developed not only the computer code but also the tools needed to embed, detect and decode the technology.
Their new ACC fingerprinting performs much better than existing methods. Fingerprints can be extracted to help identify culprits when unauthorized duplication is attempted. The technology can be applied to images, video, audio, and special documents like maps. It can even be used to protect live multicasts, such as pay-per-view events. The system can accommodate up to millions of users, an especially important feature for satellite and Internet multimedia distribution.
Wu and Liu believe the presence of sophisticated embedded ACC technology in digital resources, with its ability to unmask colluders, will be such a powerful deterrent that it actually will prevent these kinds of piracy attempts.
In addition to its usefulness for commercial purposes, ACC technology also could have major national security implications. The tragic events of 9/11 emphasized the importance of information sharing, not only among U.S. federal agencies, but also among their international counterparts. Yet without effective “traitor tracing” tools to protect the sensitive nature of multimedia data shared among a group of users, entities have been understandably reluctant to participate in sharing operations. In the truly secure intelligence sharing that ACC technology could provide, multimedia information could be tracked, and those involved in attempts at unauthorized redistribution could be identified.
The Clark School team’s award-winning research has captured the attention of colleagues in academia and industry worldwide. In addition, MIT’s Technology Review magazine named Min Wu as one of 100 individuals under age 35 whose innovative work has made a profound impact on the world.
For more information, please see the following technical research brief on ACC digital fingerprinting:
Faculty Researchers: Min Wu, K. J. Ray Liu
Additional Researchers: Jane Wang, Wade Trappe, and Hong Zhao
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