It’s been more than a decade since Netflix launched its on-demand online streaming service, drastically changing the way we consume media. In 2019, streaming accounts for an astonishing 58 percent of all internet traffic, with Netflix alone claiming a 15 percent share of that use. But as streaming has become more common, so has the exploitation of streaming technologies. Some consumers stream illegally to cut costs, perceiving it to be a victimless crime. But as the saying goes: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Streaming is no exception.
By downloading illegal streaming apps from third-party sources (i.e. outside of the Apple® App Store or Google Play), users may think they’re capitalizing on a clever loophole to access free services. However, according to a startling study conducted by Digital Citizens, 44 percent of households using pirated streaming services experienced a cybersecurity breach of one or more of their devices. That means if you use any type of illegal streaming device or app, you are six times more likely to fall victim to a cybersecurity attack than households using legal streaming services. Since a reported 12 million homes—in North America alone) are actively using pirated streams, that means illegal streaming may have led to up to 5 million potentially undetected breaches.
Why are illegal streams so attractive to cybercriminals? Because you’re probably streaming using devices and applications that are connected to your home network. Unfortunately, the firewall on the average home router does not provide adequate security against attacks. Any malware introduced by the streaming software is likely able to get through successfully. If you’re using a Window® computer or device, that means the malware can infiltrate not the device you’re actively using, but also any other Windows devices using the same internet connection. By spreading itself across multiple devices, malware makes its own removal that much more difficult. Pair these details with the fact that illegal streaming users are less likely to report a malicious app, illegal streams provide a haven for cybercriminals in which they can easily attack users, infect their machines, steal their data, and hold their files for ransom.
Cybersecurity breaches caused by illegal streaming can manifest in many ways. For example, a popular illegal movie and live sports streaming app was observed scraping the connected WiFi name and password, as well as other sensitive information, according to ThreatPost.
How You Can Stream Safer
Ultimately, nobody can guarantee the security of an illegal stream.
The truth is that legal streaming is the only safer streaming. That doesn’t
mean you have to go through the giants, like Netflix or Hulu. Users can now access
many low-cost, legal streaming options—including a few that are ad-supported and are actually free. So
why put yourself and your family at risk for the sake of an illegal stream?
If you’re worried that someone with access to your WiFi network may be streaming illegally, thereby putting you and your devices in danger, make sure all of your devices are using up-to-date antivirus software to help stop cyberattacks and prevent malware infections. More importantly, talk with your family and friends about the real cost of “free” streaming. They’ll be more cautious once they fully understand the risks.
Looking for more home security education? Check out our Home + Mobile playlist on YouTube.