Pirate websites expose users to more malware: Study

Illegal streaming popularity continues to boom but new research has revealed the hidden dangers of watching content via the web. Although many services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, offer a safe environment to view online content there are many streaming sites that could be rife with hidden dangers.

Recently, a study carried out by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania (United States) has found a link between piracy and malware websites. Having observed the online activities of 253 people throughout 2016, Professor Rahul Telang concluded in a newly-released paper that the more time a user spends on sites that offer illegal downloading, the more the risk of the computer becoming infected by viruses increases.

It is hardly a surprise to learn that navigating to pirate websites entails a higher risk of running into malware. But a researcher set out to quantify the risk that this ‘free lunch’ involves in a real-world setting.
Explaining more about the research Telang, said: “As part of Carnegie Mellon’s SBO project, we are able to monitor detailed user behaviour and measure how much time users spend on infringing sites.

Specifically, every doubling of the amount of time that the users spent on various illegal torrent and streaming sites resulted in a 20-percent increase in malware count on their computers, according to the paper entitled “Does Online Piracy Make Computers Insecure? Evidence from Panel Data”.

In the document that gathers the investigation, the researchers explain that, in addition to the destruction that piracy supposes for the authors of the contents, another one of the negative aspects of this practice consists of the propagation of malicious software. This is due to the fact that the revenues of the piracy pages come from advertising, which in many cases can bring malware, adware and other questionable tracking programs.