From time to time, maybe you just want to live a little and do something that could be considered slightly dangerous. Deep down you know it’s wrong, but you tell yourself it’s okay to experiment and that you’re just going to try it once.
But before you throw caution to the wind, you need to know that it’s not cool to download or stream illegally pirated TV shows and movies. Wait, what did you think I was talking about?
Take that pirated content and mix with it with something else that’s bad—like malware—and you get an even worse recipe for trouble. Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is issuing a big warning about the spread of malware through apps used to stream video that’s not on the up-and-up.
All those streaming options
Like I said, streaming pirated content is bad. First of all it’s a big financial hit for real streaming services, along with studios, actors, crew and everyone else involved. That means costs go up for you and me on services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and the growing list of others.
Not only that, it’s also very illegal and could end with you being hit with heavy fines. In some extreme cases, it could mean a trip to jail. Now give me a second to climb down from my soapbox.
If that’s not enough incentive to stay on the streaming straight and narrow, think about this: there’s absolutely no shortage of ways to watch your favorite movies and shows these days. You’ve got smart TVs and streaming boxes like the Roku and Apple TV.
Then there are streaming sticks such as Chromecast, along with and endless number of apps made for your smartphone, tablet, laptops and video game consoles. Oh so many devices just waiting to get a bad case of malware. Get the picture?
Trading your questionable thriftiness for malware
There are reputable apps to watch movies and TV like I mentioned above, then there are … alternatives. Lots of them.
And cybercriminals are kicking their efforts to spread malware up a notch, moving from those shady “watch free” websites to apps and add-ons for popular streaming devices, according to a new warning from the FTC.
It’s bad enough when malware infects your computer, slowing it down, filling your screens with ads and trying to lure you to malicious sites. There’s nothing new about that.
Let’s say you download a pretty fishy-looking app onto your Roku, but it didn’t come from its official store. If there’s malware mixed in, it’ll be looking at your network while it tries to find an open port to get in. Once it’s on your network, it’s going to try to say “hello” to your other connected devices.
Just say no to malware
To prevent malware from making its way onto devices you use to binge-watch, and unwanted attention from law enforcement, the best thing to do is stay away from any kind of pirated content in the first place.
Malware can be hidden within apps, or as trojans attached to individual episodes of your favorite shows. Depending on the malware, it’ll put your personal information at risk like logins, banking information, etc.
Along those lines, Kaspersky Lab recently conducted a worldwide study looking at the most dangerous shows to pirate. Not surprisingly, at the top of the list of malware risk was HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” followed by AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and CW’s “Arrow.”
To be fair, you usually have to try pretty hard to get questionable apps added to the big streaming devices (not Kodi), unless of course it’s been jailbroken. And those are all over the black market and for sale on sites like eBay or Craigslist.
They’ll be cheaper than legit boxes you can get brand new, filled with apps to let you watch free TV and movies. Sure sounds like a great deal but chances are, there’ll be malware thrown in, too. A report from the Digital Citizens Alliance and Dark Wolfe Consulting looked at six of those devices and found about 40% of the apps were infected with malware.
If your device starts acting strangely, we’ve got tips on how to figure out if it’s been infected and what you can do about it. Check that report out by clicking or tapping here.
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This is just another reminder there’s not a whole lot in life that’s free. That is, unless you’re still using your sister’s friend’s cousin’s roommate’s Netflix password.