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Digital Citizens News

State AGs Warn Consumers About Malware Risks from Pirate Websites in National Public Service Campaign

Published Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fifteen State Attorneys General Warn Citizens About Risks


Teens Targeted by Hackers to Take Over Computer Cameras to Film Them in Private Moments


Cyber Research Finds That 1 in 3 Pirate Websites Expose Consumers to Malware That Can Lead to Loss of Privacy, Ransomware and Financial Loss


Washington, DC, July 26, 2017 -- Fifteen state attorneys general are warning that pirate websites often expose consumers to malware that can give hackers access to their personal information, their bank account – and even their bedroom. It is the first-ever national campaign to alert citizens of the risk of visiting pirate websites.

Through a public service announcement campaign running on television, radio, and social media in 15 states, the bipartisan group of attorneys general warn how hackers use these content theft websites to bait internet users into visiting so they can infect their computers.

“State AGs often serve as the consumer protection agency for their citizens, so we appreciate the leadership they are taking in alerting consumers to the new danger that consumers face from malware and content theft websites,” said Tom Galvin, Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance, a consumer-focused group that looks at how to make the Internet safer. “Criminals are exploiting stolen content by baiting consumers to view videos and songs and then stealing their IDs and financial information. It should be a wake-up call for consumers.”

The PSAs can be viewed online at Digital Citizens’ YouTube channel. The state AGs who are participating in the PSA initiative are:

AZ: Mark Brnovich
CT: George Jepsen
DC: Karl Racine
HI: Doug Chin
ID: Lawrence Wasden
IN: Curtis Hill
KS: Derek Schmidt
KY: Andy Beshear
LA: Jeff Landry
MT: Tim Fox
NC: Josh Stein
ND: Wayne Stenehjem
OR: Ellen Rosenblum
SD: Marty Jackley
WI: Brad Schimel


In addition to state AGs, the Federal Trade Commission has warned consumers about the malware dangers from content theft.  

And DCA research has shown that hackers are targeting illicit streaming devices such as so-called Kodi boxes by including malware in add-ons such as files offering sub-titles for foreign films.

Peddling content-driven malware is now big business: Research by cyber security firm RiskIQ estimates that content thieves are making an estimated $70 million a year just from allowing malware distributors to place malicious code on their websites.

RiskIQ also found that 1 in 3 pirate websites expose users to malware. Internet users who visited content theft sites were 28 times more likely to get malware from these sites than from mainstream websites or licensed content providers.

In its content theft-research, RiskIQ probed hundreds of websites dedicated to distributing stolen movies and television shows and found:

  • Merely visiting a content theft site can place a user’s computer at risk: 45 percent of malware was delivered through so-called “drive-by downloads” that invisibly download to the user’s computer - without requiring them to click on a link.
  • Once hackers get into a computer, they can use it for a wide range of criminal schemes where the user of the computer is the victim. These include:
    • Stealing bank and credit card information that is then sold on underground Internet exchanges. After the hack, consumers find their bank accounts depleted or suspicious charges on their credit cards. There is an underground market for credit card information that ranges from $2 to $135 per credit card credential.
    • Finding personal information that makes it easier to sell a person’s identity to the highest bidder online. In July, the FBI added five online criminals to its “Most Wanted” list for creating computer programs that stole identities and financial information.
    • Locking a user’s computer and demanding a ransom fee before returning access to their files.
    • Taking over the cameras of computers, especially young female and male teens. In some cases, hackers have tried to blackmail those targeted to perform “shows” for them.

About Digital Citizens

Digital Citizens is a consumer-oriented coalition focused on educating the public and policy makers on the threats that consumers face on the Internet and the importance for Internet stakeholders – individuals, government and industry - to make the Web a safer place. Based in Washington, DC, the Digital Citizens Alliance counts among its supporters: private citizens, the health, pharmaceutical and creative industries as well as online safety experts and other communities focused on Internet safety.

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