One-third of pirated movie sites spread malware, report finds

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You might want to think twice before trying to watch a pirated copy of the new Star Wars movie online. Besides the fact that the movie will likely be much better on a big screen with surround sound, a new report reveals that many websites set up to distribute pirated movies and TV shows are spreading malware.

Cyber ​​security firm RiskIQ surveyed a sample of 800 hacking websites and found that one in three websites contained malware that could expose a user to identity theft, financial loss, and hackers taking control of his computer. Internet users who visited hacking sites were 28 times more likely to be infected with malware from so-called torrent sites than from licensed or mainstream media websites.

Almost half the time the malware was delivered through “spam downloads”, meaning the malware was triggered simply by visiting a site – users didn’t have to click again or download a video to be downloaded. infected.

Once hackers gain access to 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 someone out of their computer and demand a ransom.

“Users beware. The data in this report shows a much higher incident rate of malicious advertising and the spread of malware in general on torrent sites. Just visiting these sites puts the device on 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 leverage and monetize torrent traffic. While some torrent sites directly host malware, most torrent publishers and malverters use ad and affiliate networks to distribute their exploits and malware in exchange for payment. “

The research report, titled “Digital Bait”, was commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance.


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According to the report, content-related malware is big business for content thieves who now make around $ 70 million a year by allowing malware distributors to place malicious code on their websites. Malware distributors can then earn more money by exploiting their access to hacked computers.

“It is clear that the criminals who exploit stolen content have branched out to make more money by tricking consumers into viewing videos and songs and then stealing their credentials and financial information,” said Tom Galvin, director. Executive of the Digital Citizens Alliance, in a press release. . “This is criminal behavior, and it should be a wake-up call to consumers and law enforcement alike that a new front must open in the battle against cybercriminals and malware peddlers. exploiting Internet users. “

The research is particularly troubling at a time when some 16.2 million U.S. consumers have been victims of identity theft, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We can’t just give up and do nothing. Parents need to teach their children that they destroy their computers by going to content theft sites; Internet security groups and all those responsible for the Internet ecosystem must step up awareness campaigns; and law enforcement must step up its efforts to catch and combat malware peddlers, ”said Galvin.


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