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Is that streaming device safe, or even legal?

You’ve probably heard of the popular streaming devices: Roku Streaming Stick, Chromecast with Google TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Apple TV 4K. But there are many other devices available on the market that allow you to stream movies, TV shows, music, and games at a low price.

The question is — are these devices safe and legal? It can be hard to tell unless you know the signs.

This may look legitimate, but it is actually an illegal streaming box.

Companies that create and sell illegal streaming boxes like this one do their best to make the device and its packaging look and feel as legitimate as possible. One of the first ways you can spot an illegal device is that you will see phrases like “jailbroken” or “fully-loaded” on the website and packaging.

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A site with a shopping cart, product imagery, and reviews has to be safe, right?

Unfortunately, no. Anyone can create a website that looks completely legitimate in a matter of hours. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Do your due diligence and research who you are buying from. If you are suspicious, check the company’s social media presence, review the terms and conditions on the company website, and check the company’s credit report. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request more information in order to protect yourself.

Illegal devices can even be sold on legal platforms, such as Amazon. That’s why it is critical to research the sellers and know what to look for when shopping for a streaming device.

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But the technology is so sophisticated. There is even a TV guide.

Devices like illegal streaming boxes often come with a TV guide. This “guide” is essentially an illegal IPTV app that allows you to access illegal streams of live broadcast channels and on-demand content. These illegal streams are then fed into the streaming box, giving you access to pirated content for free.

Risks of using an illegal streaming device

Illegal streaming devices can be incredibly dangerous, digitally, legally, and physically. With the magnitude of the risks involved, illegal streaming is not worth saving a little money. These are some of the most prominent risks:

Malware and viruses
Illegal devices may come loaded with harmful software that can ultimately lead to fraud or identity theft.

Legal consequences
Illegal streaming is a felony offense that can result in fines or jail time.

Fire hazard
Illegal devices do not undergo proper safety testing. A report from FACT and Electrical Safety First found the majority of illegal streaming devices posed a significant fire risk.

Inappropriate content for kids
Due to the lack of parental controls on illegal streaming devices, there have been reports of child programming being interrupted by explicit content.

How to tell if a streaming device is legal and safe

Since the company websites and streaming devices often look genuine, it’s difficult to distinguish between what’s legal and what’s not. These are some signs of an illegal device:

Free content
If a device claims to offer original content you would otherwise have to pay for, it’s likely illegal. For example, no legal streaming device would promise free access to Netflix original content or to all Disney movies.

Unfamiliar names and logos
If you have never seen the brand, logo, or product in question on a known, legitimate website, it can be a sign that it’s an illegal device.

Jailbroken or fully-loaded
Devices marked with “jailbroken” or “full-loaded” indicate illegal access to restricted content.

Preloaded content
Illegal devices often come preloaded with apps and streaming services that are typically unavailable in your country. Legal devices may come with pre-installed apps, but they are related to the brand of the device. For example, a Roku Streaming Stick will already have the Roku app installed, and an Apple TV 4K will come preloaded with various Apple apps and services.

Do’s and Don’ts to Stream Safely.


Get a streaming stick for your TV, monitor, or projector.

Many streaming services now offer the ability to watch local channels and live TV. This makes it easy and affordable to watch your favorite content, live or on demand.

Popular streaming devices include:

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Chromecast with Google TV
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • Roku Streaming Stick
  • TiVo Stream 4K

You can also use gaming devices, like an Xbox Series X, to stream movies and shows directly to your TV.


Be fooled by a jailbroken streaming device.

Jailbroken devices allow you to install apps that are not authorized by the maker of the device (Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.). While that may seem convenient, it undermines important security measures that protect your device.

Without those security protocols in place, your jailbroken device may experience service disruptions and technical issues, offer lower quality picture and sound, and have a shorter lifespan.

From a legal standpoint, it’s illegal to get around digital locks put in place by Google, Roku, and other providers, according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law protects copyright holders who make money off songs, games, and other forms of digital media that can be more easily stolen with a jailbroken device. Plus, the act of jailbreaking a streaming device renders the warranty on it void.

The risks of using a jailbroken device simply aren’t worth it. Stick with what the manufacturer designed to keep all your devices safe and working well long into the future.


Sign up for a streaming subscription.

There are countless affordable, safe streaming options available today.

Some of the most popular options include:

  • Disney+
  • Paramount+
  • Peacock
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Sling TV
  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Max
  • Fubo

If you’re still deciding which platforms you’d like to subscribe to, there are also many free streaming services that offer thousands of hours of movies, TV shows, and more. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Pluto TV
  • Tubi
  • Crackle
  • Amazon Freevee


Stream content from a pirated website.

According to the FCC, there are many consumer safety risks from illegal streaming apps and websites. The most common risk is the high potential for malware.

Once malicious software from an illegal device or website infects your wireless network, it can affect every other device connected to it.

This could lead to stolen financial information, compromised login credentials, identity theft, and more.

Those who purchase a piracy subscription service with a credit card run a high risk of incurring fraudulent charges. In fact, the Digital Citizens Alliance found that 72% of Americans who made such a purchase later dealt with credit card fraud, while only 18% of people who don’t visit pirate sites faced the same issue.

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Download trusted streaming apps onto your TV or phone.

When you’re downloading streaming apps onto your TV or phone, stick to what you know. Most, if not all, major streaming services offer smart TV and mobile apps.

Generally, the majority of streaming apps you will find on the Apple App Store and Google Play are legal. It is possible, however, for illegal apps to make it onto those services, so research any app you are not familiar with.

Be 100% sure about the app before downloading because it could have consequences.


Use pirate streaming apps to watch movies and shows for free.

If it sounds like too good of a deal, it probably is. Pirate streaming apps are not often found on the Apple App Store or Google Play. However, some can occasionally slip through and be available on those services. Whether you find it in a major app store or you download it from an unknown source, pirate apps typically have malicious software that can harm your device, network, and life. Pirate streaming apps have become more and more common in different parts of the world as criminals have found loopholes to get their apps added to major app stores. In Brazil, two pirate streaming apps had higher rankings on Google Play than Netflix, Disney+, and Max. Be sure to thoroughly research apps you have not heard of before.

FAQs about illegal streaming

Why is illegal streaming bad?

There are wide-ranging consequences of illegal streaming. Illegal streaming is bad because it can have negative effects on you, your devices, and anyone else using your wireless network. Illegal streaming often leads to malware and viruses that can affect all the devices on your network. It can also lead to financial fraud and identity theft.

Plus, if you’re caught illegally streaming copyrighted material, you could receive fines and/or jail time.

From a wider scope, pirated content hurts everyone involved in the entertainment industry, including actors, crew members, producers, etc. If you watch a pirated version of a movie, those who worked hard to create that movie aren’t getting fairly compensated for that viewing.

Can you get in trouble for illegal streaming?

Unlawfully streaming copyrighted materials is a felony offense. While it’s rare for the government to prosecute individuals, it is possible. If you’re caught, it could result in fines, jail time, and a criminal record.

What are the safest ways to stream on a device?

Generally, the best thing you can do is research and only use products you’re confident are safe. That includes devices like Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV 4K, Nvidia Shield TV, Chromecast with Google TV, TiVo Stream 4K, Roku Streaming Stick, and other legitimate streaming devices.

How exactly do illegal streaming devices work?

Here is how illegal streaming devices work:

  • The sellers create a company (sometimes legitimately) and a professional-looking website.
  • The “company” either preloads a streaming device with pirated movies, TV shows, and apps OR provides access to an illegal website via the device.
  • They charge a one-time fee for unlimited access to the content.
  • You plug it into your TV, monitor, or projector and watch shows and movies — but, it’s not what it seems. On top of being illegal, it may also corrupt your TV and wireless network with malware.

Can illegal devices be sold on legitimate websites?

Yes, well-known and accepted online marketplaces like Amazon and AliExpress offer illegal streaming devices. This is because various users and companies can sell their products through those websites. For example, on Amazon, you may find a cheap Android streaming box that has firmware signed with test keys. However, that device may be loaded with malware and set up to steal your data. There are several devices users should beware of, including AllWinner T95Max, RockChip X12 Plus, and RockChip X88 Pro 10. Here’s the story about someone one Reddit user who experienced this exact situation when purchasing a popular set-top box.

Stream Safely Today

With StreamSafely you can enjoy your favorite shows, movies, and sports without worrying about the consequences of illegal streaming. StreamSafely provides the tools you need to watch content with peace of mind. Learn more about safe, legal platforms for streaming all the best shows and movies.