Some movie studios have begun to release new films simultaneously in theaters and on their streaming platforms. This allows new films to reach the largest possible audience. However, once a film is available for streaming it’s also at risk of being copied and redistributed; in other words, pirated. This may seem like a problem for just movie studios and the entertainment industry. But pirated movie websites carry risks for anyone who opts to view (or even try to view) them. Cybercriminals use the promise of popular content and/or “free and safe movie streaming” to gain access to people’s devices and networks.

Disney’s latest Marvel film, Black Widow, was the most pirated film on torrent sites for the first three weeks of its release. Some piracy reports suggest that it may be the most pirated film since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pirated Movie Websites – illegal, but also potentially dangerous

Two reports released in 2020 identify techniques cybercriminals use to steal information from, and spread malware to, unsuspecting people searching for pirated movie websites.

Kaspersky, an industry leading, global cybersecurity company, documents how cybercriminals use the promise of free, Academy Award nominated films to bait people into disclosing private information and downloading malware.

Following the release of 2020’s Best Picture nominees, Kaspersky found 20 phishing websites and Twitter accounts designed to trick visitors into providing personal information—sometimes credit card numbers—by making such disclosures a prerequisite to accessing a download of a nominated film. Once victims enter the required information there is no payoff, no free pirated movie, just the danger that their sensitive information will be used for illegal purposes.

Pirate Websites and Malware

Another scam involves scattering malicious files across the internet disguised as downloadable film files. Kaspersky found 925 such files identified as free copies of Joker, 1917, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and other best picture contenders. When an unsuspecting victim attempts to download a free film, they instead download malware that infiltrates their devices and network, and from there can do a wide variety of harms.

The second report, from the Journal of Internet Electronic Commerce Research, reveals that an increase in buzz on social media about a television show immediately increases demand for pirated downloads of that show.

Are free movie streaming sites safe?

These reports highlight the risks of attempting to stream movies online free or to access “free,” in demand films and television shows, particularly those trending on social media. Cybercriminals have their fingers on the pulse of public desires, and they’re always ready to lay more traps. Which means the only path to safe movie streaming, or to download that new television show, is from a reputable, licensed provider.

Interested in learning more?

Find safe movie streaming options on our Where to Watch page.

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