Use pirate sites to stream for free? Here’s why you could be risking more than just arrest

Use pirate sites to stream for free? Here’s why you could be risking more than just arrest

Streaming content online has become hugely popular in recent years but some users may be putting themselves at risk.

Although many services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, offer a safe environment to view online content there’s many streaming sites that could be rife with hidden dangers.

According to new research from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania the more time spent on illegal pirate sites the more chance a user has of exposing themselves to harmful cyber viruses and malware.

To find out how bad these illegal sites can be, over 250 people were observed for a year with the results showing an increase risk of malware when streaming pirated content.

Explaining more about the research Professor Rahul Telang, said: “As part of Carnegie Mellon’s SBO project, we are able to monitor detailed user behavior and measure how much time users spend on infringing sites.

“We find that more visits to infringing sites does lead to more number of malware files being downloaded on user machines.

“In particular doubling the amount of time spent on infringing sites cause a 20 percent increase in malware count.

“Even after we classify malware files into adware and remove them from analysis, our results still suggest that there is a 20 percent increase in malware count due to visits to infringing sites.”

“Despite the limitations, we believe our paper provides a deeper understanding into how infringing sites can cause proliferation of malware. We hope our work will be a springboard for similar empirical work.“

This isn’t the first time users of pirate sites have been warned of the dangers of malware.

Recent data from FACT revealed that a quarter of Britons have accessed digital material illegally, and that comes with “high” risks.

Besides the threat of 10 years in jail thanks to the new Digital Economy Act, the report said users are opening themselves up to other serious threats.

Kieron Sharp, Director General at FACT, said: “This report has come at a crucial time in our fight against digital piracy.

“A quarter of Brits access digital material illegally, and often don’t realise the risks associated with that, for them and their families.

“Pirates are not Robin Hood characters; they are criminals who do it to make money through illicit means.

“As a result, the risks are high – inappropriate advertising that could be seen by young children, electrical safety associated with counterfeit parts, and financial cyber crime.”

FACT said criminals behind digital piracy often make the content freely available illegally to “bait” a large number of visitors.

They can then make money by charging other cyber criminals to put malware on a site which can then hijack a user’s computer.

The FACT report cited one study that looked at US “content theft sites”.

The research found one in every three websites exposed users to malware.

FACT added: “Internet users who visited content theft sites were 28 times more likely to get malware from those sites than from legitimate websites or content providers.”

“The reason for end users to come into this is that they are committing criminal offences.”

The news comes after earlier this year Kodi users were left stunned after the Digital Economy Act became law.

This raised the maximum possible sentence for online copyright infringement offences from two to 10 years.

The maximum sentence will only apply to people who commit serious copyright crimes, such as distributing content.

But Kodi users have been warned that soon authorities could start targeting them.

FACT's Mr Sharp previously said: “We’ll also be looking at, at some point, the end user."

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