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Pirated Television Shows: Malware Hot Spots

A security firm discovered tens of thousands of instances of malware contained in downloads of popular television shows. Cybercriminals are targeting pirated television episodes as a way to spread malware.

The television shows most likely to contain malware are "Game of Thrones," "The Walking Dead" and "Arrow." In 2018, "Game of Thrones," according to the firm, "accounted for 17 percent of all infected pirated content, with 20,934 attacked users." Among those who downloaded episodes of "The Walking Dead," 18,794 were attacked with malware, and 12,163 "Arrow" watchers downloaded malware. The first and last episodes of a season are the most likely to contain malware.

Television shows are available digitally though online streaming and torrents. Because they are often distributed illegally through torrent-trackers and unauthorized streaming platforms, digital television shows provide an opportunity for cybercriminals. Hackers can easily replace television shows with malware-carrying versions on unauthorized sites. Illegally distributed television shows may prompt the user to download a file that claims to contain the episode but in fact contains malware. "Cybercriminals Using Popular TV Shows to Spread Malware" darkreading.com (Apr. 01, 2019).


Whether it is pirated television shows or other popular content, cybercriminals will try to capitalize on users' impatience or loyalty to a show by promising episodes before they air or by offering behind-the-scenes content. Do not trust any download that claims to have otherwise unreleased content. Never select links promising early access to an unreleased episode.

Your employer most likely has a policy against downloading any non-work related content. No matter what web addresses you access for work or personal use, always confirm that the web address starts with HTTPS:// and that the URL is accurate. Check the security certificate. Make sure the spelling matches exactly.

Even if you are downloading from a trusted site, check the extension for signs that it could contain malware. In fact, follow this practice anytime you download a file. Legitimate video files should have an .avi, .mkv or .mp4 extension. Never download a file with an .exe extension.

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