During a pandemic, people spend a lot of time at home watching television and film, increasing demand for engaging content. And since increased content interest also increases demand for risk-laden pirated TV and movies, hackers take advantage of the opportunity to spread malware to more and more devices and home networks.

A summer survey by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) discovered that approximately 13% of Americans use illegal pirate streaming boxes and devices in their homes to view unlicensed content. Piracy devices and apps are the main avenue by which hackers bypass our cyber-defenses and access personal information. So, it’s not surprising that 1 in 4 who self-report using piracy devices also report having been victims of malware attacks in the three months prior to the survey. And nearly half of piracy device and app users report malware attacks in the previous year. Conversely, only 16% of people who don’t view pirate streams report being victims of malware attacks.

That people using piracy devices and apps increase their vulnerability to the dangers of malware is particularly important at a time when many depend on a secure home network and uncompromised devices to work from home. Because if malware infiltrates a home network, it has access to private information on any device that runs on that network. 

Cybersecurity company Carbon Black reports that once people began working from home in large numbers, there was an immediate spike in global ransomware attacks. This 148% increase from just weeks prior was hackers attempting to take advantage of weaknesses in people’s home defenses. Predictably, financial organizations were the main target of increased attacks.

According to the DCA survey, nearly one-third of people who use pirate devices and apps say that, during the pandemic, they don’t have access to enough good content. The greater problem is that the method they’ve chosen to increase their options comes with significant risks for their security and privacy and their employers’ sensitive data.