In the past two years, binge watching and streaming habits have significantly evolved. As part of the populace’s response to the pandemic, reluctant staycationers turned to Netflix and other streaming platforms to help keep them distracted from the chaos and the indoor blues.
During the lockdown, more specifically till March 2020, it is estimated that Americans collectively watched over 300,000 years worth of content. That is no surprise to anyone who was paying attention at that time. By December 2021, the numbers were only rising.
For many, the lockdown may be over, but the binge watching urge stays strong. An increased viewership, however, has had no effect on the willingness to pay for access to streaming libraries. And so, in their quest to get content, users are exposing themselves to malware traps.
Streaming platforms are the new cable TV
With content scattered across multiple brands and media companies, a backlash to subscription fee hikes was inevitable. The tendency to gravitate towards illegal streams point towards viewers wishing to take back control. And of course, it is also about the money.
From a list of nine major streaming platforms, Netflix came out on top as the most expensive at $16/month followed by HBO Max at $15/month. Interestingly, Apple TV is the cheapest at $5/month. For now.
According to a Nielsen State of Play report, more than 60% of Americans own at least one streaming subscription, on average four, and up to six subscriptions at a time. Streaming content has nowadays effectively become the second coming of the cable television package.
The Tricks of Illegal Streams
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An illegal stream is a platform that does not have the rights to stream the content in their library. From movies, music, live sports, to books, software and games, illegal sites claim to give any and every type of content for free. Their benevolence is unlimited.
In reality, the user of illegal sites is stepping into a minefield of malware traps and data breaches. There are several tactics deployed by these sites to get you to give them critical information that can lead to serious consequences. Some examples are below:
Like Alice in Wonderland, you can click on a play button and end up on the portal for a dodgy crypto platform or an online betting pool. Most often, you will see that a single click will redirect through several unrelated sites before it brings you to a page.
Dishonest Clickable Buttons
Worse than redirects are the plain dishonest links that are disguised as the normal control buttons you would find on a media player. Click on an X symbol to close a pop-up window on a similarly misleading pop-up and you are on your way to downloading a malware .exe file.
Un-minimizable Video Content
This type of malware trap works in the form of a looped video of extremely nsfw content that viewers often get in a hurry to minimize. But alas there is no way to do so. In their scramble, viewers end up clicking on concealed links that give permission and access to install adware.
Unintended Consequences of Illegal Streaming
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So what happens when you end up victim to the tricks described above and click on a malicious link. You could end up downloading malware directly onto your laptop or mobile. A garden variety of malware exists just to get the third party in control of your valuable personal data:
- Trojan Horses that imitate banking portals and dupe the user into revealing their banking credentials and credit card information.
- Browser-jacking programs that lead a third-party to access and control your browser. You may already be familiar with these services as they are used by IT support in offices and customer service operations.
Content consumption these days has spawned a false sense of immediacy. You are skeptical of the need for so many streaming subscriptions, yet you want to keep up with the latest talking points on social media. So illegal streams seem like a viable second option.
Our advice would be to ‘Look a gift horse In the mouth.’ Let’s say, you don’t know how to watch American Netflix outside the US, or your preferred sports stream is blocked in your region. Even when you are in such a bind, it is better to pair a legal stream with a safer unlocking tool such as a VPN.
Without exception, illegal streams are a dangerous and frustrating viewing experience. It is good to stop and think whether this risk is worth jeopardizing the safety of your devices and personal data, both of which are worth much more than a subscription that costs a few dollars a month.