Not that we condone pirating copyrighted material, but if you do, read on.
Pirated versions of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Arrow are among the most popular TV shows. Hackers use these as bait to secretly install malware on people’s computers. On Monday, April 1st (no joke!) security firm Kaspersky Lab ranked the top 15 pirated TV shows most likely to contain malware. No. 1 on the list was Game of Thrones, even though the HBO fantasy series has not released a new episode in more than a year.
“Game of Thrones accounted for 17 percent of all the infected pirated content in 2018, with 20,934 users attacked,” the antivirus vendor said. “The first and the last episodes of each Game of Thrones season we analyzed turned out the most dangerous.” In total, Kaspersky uncovered 33 different types of malicious threats associated with pirated episodes of Game of Thrones.
The TV show’s first episode, “Winter is Coming,” was most actively exploited.
The most popular attack loads the pirated media, such as torrents, with a malicious Trojan file. The download will look like it contains a copy of the actual episode. But in reality, the copy is a shortcut – when it is clicked on, it will activate a programming script in a hidden holder to launch malware. The goal of it is to steal sensitive data or take over the whole system.
Hackers will also try to disguise adware as pirated AVI video files. For example, Kaspersky Lab detected one attack attempting to pass off an executable program using the file name:
They conducted their study by taking volunteer customer data from its antivirus products, and checking how many had encountered malware files with names related to the TV shows. The findings from the company determined that TV-show based malware hit 126,340 users last year. However, total infection attempts in 2018 were down by 22 percent to 451,636.
According to Kaspersky Lab, the decline might be the result of Google downranking torrent websites from its search results, making the pirated content harder to find. More users are also dropping piracy to watch their favorite TV shows over legitimate streaming services, making the attacks less effective.
Still, expect the attack attempts to rise in the coming weeks, with the imminent release of the final season of Game of Thrones. To stay safe, the company advises users to consider subscribing to legitimate streaming services. But if you have to pirate, they recommend that you look closely at what you’re downloading and from what sources.
Pay attention to the extension of the downloaded file. If downloading TV show episodes, the file must not end in .exe. Also be careful about the torrents you use and look up the comments about the downloadable files – if comments are unrelated to the content, you are probably looking at malware.
Adapted from an article on pcmag.com
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