Pirates use one or more of these distribution methods to offer customers stolen content:

  1. Subscription-based apps and web services
  2. Hardware-based devices
  3. Advertising-supported services

1. Subscription-based apps and web services

Streaming sites and apps are frequent sources of pirated content. Pirates lure consumers with promises like, “stream movies online for free” or “free sports streaming.” Not to be confused with authorized streaming sites like HBO Max and Disney+, pirate streaming sites aggregate and offer unauthorized, stolen content.

In addition, peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing websites or apps, which serve legitimate purposes, may also be used by pirates to upload unauthorized, stolen content for viewing. BitTorrent and uTorrent are examples of P2P filesharing tools.

Some pirate subscription services allow stolen content to be streamed directly to Smart TV’s, bypassing the need for a device or a computer browser.

2. Hardware-based devices

Pirated content may also be offered through a device, such as an Amazon Fire Stick, which has been jailbroken or altered so that additional software like Kodi or Plex apps can be installed. Kodi is an open-source media player that serves as a central hub for playing video, audio and gaming applications. But it can also be used to enable add-on services which may provide access to pirated channels and stolen videos.

Pirate streaming sites and services also sell boxes that have been jailbroken and include services that enable access to their stolen content. These services are often detected and shut down, leaving the user with a “brick” – a useless piece of hardware on which they spent hard-earned money.

3. Advertising-supported services

Ad-supported services offer free sports streaming and the ability to watch new movies online for free or at very low prices by including advertisements. Although many such services are legit, some may include unauthorized, stolen content. Another potential problem with ad-supported services is that the site operators often have to utilize second and/or third-party sources for ads, and sometimes those ads lead unsuspecting users to malware-infected sites.

Interested in learning more?

Find safe movie and tv show streaming sites on our “Where to Watch” page.

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