How Malware Developers Target Illegal Streaming

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Illegal torrenting was once the number-one enemy for movie producers and cinemas; however, times are changing. Nowadays, users are shifting toward streaming movies instead of torrenting them.

There are many reasons for this shift. For one, streaming movies means you can see the quality of it instantly; torrenting the video may lead to disappointment once it’s finished, and the film quality is awful.

Also, streaming movies is harder for law enforcement to detect than torrenting. In fact, the UK has never seen an arrest for streaming illegal content without using additional third-party devices, like a custom video box.

Where the Malware Comes In

This poses a problem for malware developers who utilized torrents to spread their viruses far and wide. Malware spread via torrents has seen a recent downtick as a result of the shift toward streaming. It’s not all good news for us, however; the developers are now shifting their focus to catch people streaming content instead!

There are three ways that hackers target streaming: through third-party devices set up for streaming, through apps for streaming, and via streaming websites.

Spreading Malware via Third-Party Devices

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Some black market merchants make their living by selling custom hardware. One such gadget is a television box adjusted to allow illegal streaming. People purchase these boxes and use them to stream whatever they like, even feeds that have been unauthorized to be streamed by the box as mentioned earlier.

Unfortunately, much like any black market in the technology world, this has its host of problems. If we ignore the issues such as potential dodgy hardware and the fact that such a box would instantly incriminate you if found, the merchant can easily slip malware into the device.

The problem with malware on a television box is that they typically require going through a home router to work. As such, users will permit the device to connect to the router and have full access to it. This then opens the door to malware hidden within, which can use this position of power to infect a whole network.

Spreading Malware via Apps

People sometimes turn to apps to stream content, so malware developers are following suit. App malware is nothing new; we’ve seen quite a few attacks from the Google Play store itself! However, this focus on creating infected streaming apps is unique, designed to catch the wave of people moving from downloading to streaming.

Spreading Malware via Streaming Sites

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Streaming websites infected with malware is also nothing new. Malware developers use tactics similar to what’s already being used, such as phishing and malware-infested ads. With streaming sites, however, they can create a website claiming to have the latest and greatest movies ready to stream, leading users through their marathon of malware.

A streaming site can have any number of viruses lurking. The video may refuse to play until you disable your ad blocker; at which point, the website floods you with scam and malware-laced ads in the hopes you’ll click them. Sites may run cryptominers in the background, or use DNS poisoning to infect your cache.

How to Avoid These Attacks

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Of course, there are ways you can avoid these attacks, such as purchasing from a “trusted” vendor or using select extensions that can block attacks from websites. The absolute best way to ensure a high-quality video stream without malware, however, is to go through the official sources.

Not everyone who pirates movies and TV shows does it because they’re callous – some genuinely can’t afford it. However, it’s worth considering the risks that come with streaming illegally, especially as malware developers shift their focus toward it. Saving money on a DVD box set is one thing, but the damage malware can potentially do is another!

Stagnant Stream

The convenience of streaming has caused a downtick in torrenting, which in turn has forced malware developers to begin spreading their wares among streaming sites. There’s plenty you can do to defend yourself, but buying the real thing is always the safest option.

Does this put you off streaming movies and TV shows on unauthorized sites? Let us know below.

Simon Batt
Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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