You might want to think twice before you try to watch a pirated copy of of the new Star Wars movie online. Aside from the fact that the film will probably be way better on a big screen with surround sound, a new report finds that many websites set up to distribute pirated movies and TV shows spread malicious malware.
Cybersecurity firm RiskIQ probed a sample of 800 piracy websites and found that one in three contain malware that can expose a user to identity theft, financial loss, and hackers taking control of their computer. Internet users who visited piracy sites were 28 times more likely to get malware from so-called torrent sites than from licensed or mainstream media websites.
Almost half the time, the malware was delivered by “drive-by downloads,” meaning the malicious software was triggered just by visiting a site — users did not have to click again or actually download a video to get infected.
Once hackers gain access into a computer, they can steal bank and credit card data or personal information, which can be sold in an underground market. Another tactic some hackers use is to lock a person out of their computer and demand a ransom.
“Users beware. The data from this report shows a much higher incident rate of malvertising and malware delivery in general on torrenting sites. Simply visiting these sites puts the device you use and your personal information at risk from malware, adware and spyware,” Elias Manousos, CEO of RiskIQ, said in a press release. “Even more troubling is the ecosystem that has evolved to take advantage and monetize torrent traffic. While some torrent sites directly host malicious programs, most torrent publishers and malvertisers use ad and affiliate networks to deliver their exploits and malicious programs in exchange for payment.”
The research report, entitled “Digital Bait,” was commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance.