Cybercriminals use illegal streaming, downloads of new shows to spread malware

Who doesn’t want to get first dibs on new episodes of a new show? Why feel FOMO (fear of missing out) when you can watch it online and become part of a global fan analysis on why the main character added that way? This is the kind of human vulnerability that cybercriminals are taking advantage of as proved by Kaspersky Lab’s report titled “Game of Threats: How cybercriminals use popular TV shows to spread malware.”

Cybercriminals will disguise malware as a file of the new show and unsuspecting victims willingly download or stream with the belief that it is what they have hoped for.

Kaspersky Lab researchers took a closer look at such compromised files, covering both 2018 and 2017. Leading the list in both years was “Game of Thrones GoT.” In 2018, it accounted for 17% of all infected pirated content, with 20,934 attacked users, followed by The Walking Dead, with 18,794, and Arrow, with 12,163.

In every case observed, the malware distributors opted for the first and the last episode of each season, with the launch episode the most actively used, for example, GoT’s “The winter is coming” episode in Season 1.


“We can see clearly that malware distributors exploit TV shows that are in high demand on pirated websites: these are usually actively promoted dramas or action series,” said Anton V. Ivanov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “The first and final episodes, attracting the most viewers, are likely to be at greatest risk of malicious spoofing. Online fraudsters tend to exploit people’s loyalty and impatience, so may promise brand-new material for download that is, in fact, a cyberthreat. Keeping in mind that the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ starts this month, we would like to warn users that it is highly likely there will be a spike in the amount of malware disguised as new episodes of this show.”

In a world of instant gratification, it is hard to blame people for falling into this modus. Kaspersky Lab, however, advises people to be more careful and resist the temptation.

Illegal downloads or streaming is almost like an invitation to malware infection. Kaspersky advises people to avoid them and use only legitimate streaming websites.

Always be mindful of the download file extension even if a file is from a site people trust. Kaspersky said that files should have an .avi, .mkv or mp4 extension or any others, but definitely “not the .exe.”

When visiting a suspicious, but “irresistible” website, make sure it starts with “https.” Check that the website is genuine, by double- checking the format of the URL or the spelling of the company name, before starting downloads.

Lastly, no matter how tempting, never click on suspicious links especially those that offer too-good-to-be-true promises. Media companies hardly give leaked full episodes so don’t believe in whatever the site says.

Keep your devices protected by installing reliable security solutions.

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