Streaming episodes of Game Of Thrones could put you at risk
Game Of Thrones is certainly no stranger when it comes to online piracy.
The hugely-popular US show has consistently topped the annual list of most illegally downloaded shows since 2012.
According to research data published ahead of the season 7 premiere, 61 per cent of millennials planned to watch Game Of Thrones this year, but one in three will not pay for the show.
In total, more than 3.7 million Britons admitted that they planned to illegally watch the hit HBO show online, the study by website finder.com revealed.
But there are a number of consequences to watching Game Of Thrones for free online.
Cybersecurity firm Siege says there are “very real technical concerns” about downloading content – like Game Of Thrones – via torrents.
Siege CEO Jason Syversen told Consumer Reports, “There are some very real technical concerns.
“You’re dealing with these shady third-party sites, so it’s a great opportunity for people to insert malware into the BitTorrent client as well as transferring files with malicious content.”
This threat is not simply academic, either.
Ahead of the season 7 premiere last year, ransomware was introduced on The Pirate Bay – aimed at capitalising on the influx of users looking to download Game Of Thrones episodes for free.
You’re dealing with these shady third-party sites, so it’s a great opportunity for people to insert malware
When users clicked on the page to download the torrent file, a malicious pop-under advertisement quietly redirected users behind their back and infected the machine with Cerber ransomware.
Security firm Malwarebytes discovered the threat, which leveraged a number of vulnerable browser plugins to silently download the malicious payload to a system.
Malwarebytes security researcher Jerome Segura said: “Popular torrent site The Pirate Bay was serving ransomware via a malvertising attack this week-end.
“The ad network changes but the modus operandi remains the same.”
And it’s not only downloads that run the risk of infecting your computer.
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Streaming sites are ideal locations for so-called watering hole attacks, where an incentive – like the ability to watch an episode of Game Of Thrones for free, for example – lures unsuspecting visitors, Siege CEO Syversen has cautioned.
Hackers use the increased volume of traffic to attack a high number of users and gain access to personal information on their computers.
“They use that as bait,” he told Consumer Reports.
“It’s the internet equivalent of going to the bad part of town and buying a movie that fell off the back of a truck.”
Aside from the dangers to your own internet-connected device, there are also wider implications for the industry.
Those who enjoy Game Of Thrones and want to see more from the hit fantasy drama series should not stream or download episodes for free, since this will hardly push HBO – the US network behind the show – to commission more episodes.
Federation Against Copyright Theft, or FACT, works closely with law enforcement to protect Intellectual Property (IP) in the UK.
Speaking about the recent Game Of Thrones season 7 leaks online, a spokesperson for FACT told Express.co.uk: “It is very simple; watching and streaming TV shows and films, such as Game of Thrones, without the right subscription or permissions is illegal.
“If everyone pirated and got their content for free, programmes like Game of Thrones wouldn’t exist.
“If the studios behind these shows don’t make back what they put in, then they don’t have money to reinvest into creating original classics that we all love.
“And if we aren’t creating new TV programmes and films, then there won’t be as many opportunities for those working in the creative industries.
“In the UK these industries provide more than 1.8 million jobs and therefore piracy puts the livelihoods of so many people – not just the stars but from runners to producers – at risk.”
Game Of Thrones premieres in the UK at 2am on Sky Atlantic to coincide with US air date.
Episodes are repeated at 9pm on Sky Atlantic and are available on-demand.
The fantasy show, based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, are also available live and on-demand via online service NOW TV.