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Illegal streaming may be more dangerous than you think

With the explosion in streaming options across sports and entertainment, there are more options than ever to choose what to have streamed into your home. But in these difficult economic times, people are questioning the cost of such services and leading some to look at illegal streams and downloads from pirate sites. This puts your data at risk and could lead to you being the victim of a scam.

Illegal Streams Blog Blog

It can be very tempting to engage with illegal downloads and streaming services in order to bypass the cost of going through legitimate providers. In these unprecedented economic times, many people are looking at where they can save money, but naturally want to maintain their entertainment options. Now that the new football season has kicked off, fans squeezed out by high prices of legally viewing games may turn to illegal streams so they don’t miss their team. It’s not just football that pulls illegal viewers in: tennis, Formula1 and many others are also available on many ‘free-to-view’ sites.

It’s not just sports. Other entertainment platforms are also being pirated more and more. With availability of more legal streaming options than ever before, TV show and movie piracy are on the rise. According to data from piracy tracking company Muso, Netflix content now represents 16% of all piracy traffic. People are being driven to piracy through the fragmentation of broadcasting and by high prices in turbulent times.

But turning to illegal download and streaming services can open you up to being caught by scammers and other criminals. There are many ways they will try to catch you out in order to get access to bank accounts, commit fraud, and install malicious software. And in many cases, the operators and sellers of illegal streams often ignore the danger of providing unfiltered content that makes it accessible to children, compromising child safety.

In research reported recently, almost every illegal site carried links to malicious software or misleading content of some sort. It is notable that 40% of ‘free-to-view’ sites had no security certificate present, which means amongst other things that the criminals can view your IP address which can enable them to target you specifically. What is alarming is the variety and scope of damage these sites – even sites you may think are relatively “safe”– can deal out to you.

Common threats

The most common threats from illegal streaming sites are:

Malware

Including ‘Banking Trojans’ - malicious software that is designed to access your bank accounts and other financial information in order to steal your money.

Spyware/Adware

To follow your keyboard clicks, look at you through your camera or present particular ads to you to encourage you to click on certain links.

Phishing

Phishing is where people are tricked into revealing personal information, for example usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers, with the intent of taking over user accounts and stealing their money.

Explicit content

On the increase, and increasingly extreme.

Fake browser or operating system updates

Generated by the illegal site to make you download something helpful to the criminals.

Fake messages

Including sexual lures to trick the weak minded

Other dodgy threats

  • Junk security software
  • Push notifications designed to make you click a link
  • Fake ‘watch video’ buttons including fake ‘enable sound’ buttons
  • Fake CAPTCHAs

Payment models

Genuine sites streaming legitimate content rely on either subscription models or are paid for through advertising. The ‘free-to-air’ pirate sites that pretend to look like real ones also need to make money and sometimes they do that by running dodgy ads and generating income by serving up your data to scammers and hackers.

Buttons and buttons

One thing you may notice about illegal sites is that they often have a lot of mesmerising buttons and links flashing at you, enticing you to click on them - which of course you shouldn’t. The skill of the scammer is to engage in social engineering, the term used for a broad range of malicious activities delivered through human interaction. It uses psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive personal data. The criminals use a variety of tricks, such as fake ‘X’ boxes to click on video overlays,or false notification pop-ups, messages promising ‘too-good-to-be-true’ offers, or warnings that are designed to scare you into taking dangerous actions.

A common tactic is to mute the sound of a video stream and show a button to press that will supposedly make the sound play. But if you click it, the button will download something malicious.

Stream wars

Since Netflix first appeared and initially took a dominant position, others have come in including Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+ and others. With the explosion of online streaming services, there is some evidence of subscription fatigue, and that is leading to a new increase in piracy appearing online.

Combined with the cost of the services in a difficult economic environment, there may be some pressure for consolidation in the streaming industry. For now though, the legitimate streamers are keeping their content exclusive as much as they can, to hook you in, they hope for the long term.

Keeping safe

There's no doubt, if you want to protect your personal and financial details, and your family’s safety, the secure and safe way to watch content is definitely through legitimate providers. The big players take security seriously and it’s in their interests to make sure it remains a safe environment to see content.

Keep control of your data

An important way to stay safe online is to keep control of your data. Your personal information can get shared all over the internet, especially if it has ever fallen into the hands of unscrupulous scammers and hackers who will buy and sell it on the dark web.

The best way to keep your data safe is to get it deleted from any organisation that no longer needs it. Because of the way data gets shared, your personal information can end up in the databases of companies that you may never have even heard of. If they lose data through carelessness or being hacked, criminals can get your personal information. Rightly Protect is our service to help you get back control of your data. In just a few moments you can find out who has your data and ask for it to be deleted, quickly and for free.