MANY of us want to watch premium content -- that global blockbuster movie, the NBA finals, a popular K-Drama series. But there are still those who would rather access them for free through piracy streaming sites and apps instead of paying for subscriptions in legitimate sites, unaware of the risks they pose.

Piracy, or the illegal reproduction or distribution of copyrighted materials, hurts the entertainment industry, depriving content creators of income. This reality is often ignored by people who do not realize that patronizing illicit sites and applications can also seriously affect them.

Malicious ads and popups in piracy sites and streaming apps are used by cybercriminals to infect devices with malware. It can lead to loss of privacy and personal data or identity theft, and even cripple devices and hold data hostage.

A December 2021 study commissioned by the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) through YouGov entitled “Time to Compromise” shows how a test personal computer was compromised within 42 seconds of visiting a piracy website. A test Android device was compromised in 1:18 seconds when installing a popular piracy-related app.

The report said once a search term is typed, the user is immediately targeted for infection. For instance, clicking on a movie title can trigger the download of a file with the title name plus an “.apk” extension which contains malware that can read and write to external storage, access WiFi, and the calendar.

When users click “Play” to stream, they may also encounter a request to allow notifications that could contain malicious links or use a CAPTCHA to confirm that they are human. Clicking the CAPTCHA provides an opportunity for malware download and installation.

In addition, ads and repeated popups were designed to confuse and encourage users to install software detrimental to their machines, such as the Chrome extension called “Adblock 360,” which actually operates as adware.

Some “high risk” ads on piracy sites also direct users to adult and gambling sites. These pose significant risks to society, especially children who may come across them unwittingly.

“We found that a typical user visiting these sites would be infected by ransomware, a number of trojan horses, and other Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)... Malware authors can in turn gain access to consumer PCs and mobile devices, and all of the data held in storage, but also access to banking login details and other sensitive logins,” the report said.

Another AVIA and YouGov study titled “Consumer Risk and Digital Piracy – Where Does Malware Come From?” showed that 24 percent of respondents have accessed pirated content. They also have friends, family, household members, and officemates who have done the same.

The May 2021 study by professor Paul Watters also found that the majority or 41 percent are also aware of the relationship between malware and piracy and even consider piracy sites as the second-highest source of malware, next to adult sites.

As a partner of AVIA and a strong anti-piracy advocate, Globe has been pursuing the #PlayItRIght campaign to educate the public about the perils of accessing pirated content online, such as being exposed to malware and inappropriate content.

The campaign also upholds copyright, helping protect the art and livelihood of content creators.

“Globe firmly stands behind filmmakers and entertainment content creators. We must respect their hard work and help sustain their jobs and the lives that depend on them by fighting online content piracy. Pirated content also often contains malware, that is why we encourage everyone to download from legitimate sources only,” said Yoly Crisanto, Globe Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP for Corporate Communications.

Globe is coordinating closely with government and content providers in crafting an appropriate site-blocking mechanism that will put more teeth to the fight against cyber pirates in the absence of a law penalizing them. It also invests in piracy detection technologies for more efficient monitoring and takedown of illegal sites.

Globe strongly supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG), particularly UN SDG No. 8, to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. It is committed to upholding the UN Global Compact principles and contributing to 10 UN SDGs. (PR)