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Earlier this month, actor Zachary Horwitz pled guilty to scamming more than 250 investors out of $650 million by faking licensing deals with Netflix and HBO. The 34-year-old is now facing up to 20 years in prison for the fraud, which included forged contracts and emails with entertainment company executives.

The entertainment industry is a lucrative target for identity thieves and pirates because of its high-value assets, and is particularly vulnerable to hacking. Luckily, there are steps individuals and companies within the entertainment industry can take to protect themselves and their assets.

What is the entertainment industry? 

The media and entertainment industry includes film, theater, television, radio, dance and literature. In the United States alone, this industry is worth more than $700 billion and is expected to reach more than $825 billion by 2023, according to the 2018-2023 Entertainment & Media Outlook by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Why is the entertainment industry a target for identity thieves and cyber attacks?

Every day, millions of people use popular streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, and log into social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. The popularity of these platforms makes them a common target for hackers, scammers, and cyber attackers. By hacking a celebrity’s social media account or creating a fake account, scammers can have instant access to thousands, if not millions, of starstruck fans who are susceptible to fraud. Similarly, if a hacker gains access to the login credentials of an entertainment company staff member, they can do untold damage. It is not uncommon for these attacks to come from the “inside,” in other words, from a disgruntled employee or ex-employee. In addition, counterfeit tickets, leaked content and pirated content is extremely common online, with the average internet user unable to tell the difference between legitimate and forged or stolen content. While security measures have improved in recent years, so has the technology and strategies of cyber thieves.

So what are the best ways to protect my data?

If you work in the entertainment industry, there are several steps you can take to protect your internal company data as well as the information and identities of your customers and clients. Some highly recommended strategies include integrating secure document authentication, e-signature authentication, and onboarding processes, as well as utilizing AI technologies such as live video identity verification. Using advanced encryption, storing secure backup data, and adopting thorough employee training processes are also best practices.

My data has already been compromised….now what? 

In the event of a data breach, identity theft, or another type of fraudulent activity, companies in the entertainment industry must respond on several levels. The first step is to minimize the damage of the breach by identifying the source of the issue and addressing it immediately. A complete overhaul of the digital security and internal processes of your organization may be necessary. Simultaneously, it is your responsibility to notify authorities as well as the affected parties. During this phase of the process, it is recommended to enlist the support of your internal or external public relations team to help inform the public and your stakeholders. It is important to strike the right balance between transparency and maintaining the credibility of your company. Finally, you will need to have a plan in place to monitor all accounts and data following the incident to ensure your new security measures are effective. After the initial wave of the crisis passes, you will also need to debrief all relevant staff, analyzing how the breach happened and how something similar could be prevented in the future.

Am I at risk? 

Just by nature of working in the entertainment industry, you are inherently at risk of scammers, pirates and cyber attackers. If your company deals with high-value assets and is not using technologies such as video authentication, biometrics screening, secure e-signature software and face matching software, your risk may increase. Finally, if your data is not encrypted, you use multiple third party applications, or you have a history of disgruntled employees, you may be even more vulnerable.

What is my first step to protecting myself or my company from hackers? 

The first and most basic step you can take toward increased security is employing a strong password system on all of your forward-facing and internal digital platforms, including social media accounts. In 2020, a scammer attacked 130 Twitter accounts, including those of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West and Bill Gates with a fraudulent Tweet about Bitcoin. Even the largest and most prolific platforms are not impervious to such attacks. While important, a strong password system is just the first step in securing your company’s vital assets. To learn more about how PRUVID can help protect your data and prevent scams, contact us today.