What if you could watch your favorite sports for free ? You could save those cable fees, something done by 25% of American households. Well, turning to illegal sport streaming sites also carries its risk.
Watching sport online was driven primarily by soccer and its global audience. Often, important matches are taking place in another time zone, during a fan’s work hours. Rather than wait to watch the recorded version, die-hard fans will stream the game on their work computer (we’ll leave the moralising of that habit to you).
Sometimes, streaming is done legally like when FIFA broke streaming records to the tune of 30 million viewers. But the statistics for illegal streaming are pretty comparable– over 20 million people watched the same world cup illegally.
However, there are enormous security risks associated with illegal streaming– particularly in regards to sports streaming according to a new study spearheaded by the computer scientist Zubair Rafique.
The study investigated 23,000 “free” sports streaming websites and found that more than half of them contain malicious software. But how does it get on your computer?
Well, if you’ve ever frequented a streaming site, you’ve probably seen your share of overlay ads.
Overlay ads obscure part (or most) of the stream. In order to clear them, you have to click them. However, overlay ads are often secret carriers of malicious adware, clicking on a fake “close” button can download an adware package to your computer. Once downloaded, this adware package has the capacity to display ads without your consent. All of this works to slow down your computer and result in more and more annoying ads.
Sometimes, these overlay ads contain a highjacking virus, last week’s FixMeTip has more information about the dangers of this kind of virus.
Additionally, many streaming services will alert you that your flash player is out of date and in order to view the stream you will need to upgrade. Take a look:
These warnings will often redirect you to a website posing as a legitimate flash player like Adobe. You may think you are downloading the latest version of your flash player but it may be malware in disguise. This malware may install itself as a malicious extension on your Google Chrome web browser or embed itself on your hard drive.
“[To watch the stream] you have to install the extension, and once the user installs the extensions, it can infect any website the user is visiting,” Rafique told the BBC.
“So, if a person installs an extension to watch a stream, and then visits a site like BBC.com, this extension can actually change the contents of BBC.com as it appears in the user’s browser so that it includes malicious links and advertising.
“This is extremely dangerous.”
Think you’re too saavy to be a victim because you’ve installed AdBlocker Plus? Think again. Of all the malicious software analyzed, the researchers found 16% had provisions for combatting ad blocking software.
So what does all of this boil down to?
Essentially, if you’ve ever used an illegal streaming website– sports or otherwise– there’s a good chance you have malicious software on your computer.
But don’t panic! FixMeStick is here to help. No judgement from us, but each time you visit a high risk website you should run a FixMeStick scan. And remember, there are multiple subscription based services that are free from these risks (we wrote more about it here). Try it today.