A Kaspersky Lab study has found that hackers are sneakily adding malware to illegal downloads of popular TV shows.
Game of Thrones downloads, and indeed those of other top series’, are the most susceptible to this kind of thing.
This is according to the new study, published on Monday April 1, which warns of the latest hacking tactics.
Kaspersky Lab researchers examined data streams from millions of worldwide volunteers. It was found that 126, 340 had been hit by malware while downloading illegal copies last year.
About 17% of all infected pirated content was just from Game of Thrones downloads, leading to 20,934 users being attacked. It was also found that the first and final episodes of each season were the most dangerous.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the very first episode (‘Winter Is Coming’) was the most actively used by cybercriminals.
Why target Game of Thrones downloads?
Well, it’s a no brainer really, isn’t it? Hackers are targeting the most in demand series out there. When people are that desperate to get in on the latest viral show, without having to spend big, their guards could be down.
The Walking Dead and Arrow are also among the shows frequently used by attackers disguising malicious files. The aforementioned shows are definitely the top three most targeted, say Kaspersky.
Suits, Vikings, The Big Bang Theory, Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy are also targeted. This is Us, The Good Doctor, Stranger Things, Homeland and House of Cards also make the top list, closely followed by American Horror Story and Westworld.
These days, thanks to the rise of online streaming and torrents, popular programs can be consumed via illegal channels. Unlike legitimate resources, torrent trackers and hosted files may prompt users to download something that looks like a media file. However, it may just be malware.
Excited for the #GoT finale? Watch out for #malware. New research from @Kaspersky found that #cybercriminals are distributing malware through torrented Game of Thrones episodes. https://t.co/cqzuxibzl1
— Meghan Rimol (@MeghanRimol) April 1, 2019
What has Kaspersky Lab said about the findings?
Anton V. Ivanov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, was quoted in their official press release. He agreed that you can clearly see how malware distributors exploit high demand TV shows on pirated websites.
“The first and final episodes, attracting the most viewers, are likely to be at greatest risk of malicious spoofing,” he said. “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.”
How do you avoid falling victim to malicious files posing as TV show downloads?
Kaspersky Lab was recommended a series of security tips for viewers. They are as follows:
- Only use legitimate services with a proven reputation for producing and distributing TV content to view and download shows.
- When downloading files, pay attention to the file extension. Even if you download TV show episodes from a source you consider trusted and legitimate, the file should have an .avi, .mkv or mp4 extension. Do not download the file if it is an .exe.
- Pay extra attention to a website’s authenticity before streaming or downloading any shows. Confirm that a website is genuine by double- checking the format of the URL or the spelling of the company name before starting any downloads, and ensure the link starts with HTTPS://.
- Do not click on suspicious links, such as those promising an early view of a new episode; check the TV-show schedule and keep track of it.
- Use reliable security solution for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud.
The Mirror has also reported that these downloads could zombify your PC. So, if you don’t want your device to join the army of the undead, heed Kaspersky Lab’s advice.
The full text of the ‘Game of Threats: How Cybercriminals Use Popular TV Shows to Spread Malware’ report is available on Securelist.
Interested in finding out more about Kaspersky Lab? Take a look at their products available for download at FileHippo too, while you’re here!
Be careful out there! Cyber threat consequences can often be ‘long and full of terrors’!