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As More Americans Turned to Streaming Entertainment During Coronavirus, Cyber Attacks from Use of Piracy Devices Increases, New Survey Finds

Overall, Consumers Using Pirated Devices Are Three Times More Likely to Suffer Malware Attack

Published Monday, June 22, 2020 8:00 pm

WASHINGTON, DC, June 23, 2020 – Americans using illegal piracy devices are much more likely to bring malware and hackers into the home, a new Digital Citizens Alliance survey* of 1,512 U.S. consumers found. In the poll done last month, one in four Americans who use piracy devices in the home say he or she had a malware problem in the last three months.

Overall, 13 percent of the respondents say they are using devices like a so-called Kodi box or a jail-broken Amazon Firestick to watch pirated movies and television shows. The use of piracy devices is particularly troubling as 49 percent of those using piracy devices said they experienced malware in the past year. The finding suggests much of the malware has been recent, as about one-quarter of those who suffered from malware thought they were exposed in the past three months. 

And that is a problem at a time when we’re relying on devices to help us at home. During the coronavirus pandemic, 53 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center that the internet has been essential for them. As of February, almost half of American businesses implemented work from home policies. Now consider that a survey from the Cyber Readiness Institute showed almost 60 percent of Americans are using personal devices to do their work while at home. Business Insider research showed that more than 40 percent of the shoppers who bought groceries online during the pandemic hadn’t done so before. Additionally, DCA found that nearly 70 percent are watching more TV than usual. Put it all together and the challenge is clear: more people are online at home with more devices connecting and doing more things than ever before. 

“Now, more than ever, all of us need to find ways to be less vulnerable,” said Tom Galvin, executive director of The Digital Citizens Alliance. “Reliance on piracy sites and apps is one of the easiest changes one can make to improve online security dramatically.” 

Unfortunately, cyber threat actors are also more active than ever. DCA investigators are not the only ones finding criminals looking for backdoors into your home. Cybersecurity researchers at VMware Carbon Black say ransomware attacks are up 148%. The United Nations says malicious emails are up by 600% since the coronavirus spread started. In fact, complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center are up by as much as four times normal numbers on some days during the pandemic. 

While these numbers seem overwhelming, there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves:

  • Use apps that are licensed to sell or rent movies. If the app isn’t on Apple’s App Store or Google Play, that should be a red flag. However, even the app stores aren’t perfect. 
  • Avoid knockoffs and copycats. There’s a big difference between Netflix and “Free Netflix”… and on that note: 
  • Free comes with a high cost. The classic adage applies here: “if you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” While you may get a movie, you give up personal identifiable information and perhaps even control of your device. The cost outweighs the rewards. 

*The online survey of 1,512 U.S. consumers 18-plus was conducted from May 8-9 via Survey Monkey. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Piracy during the Pandemic

About DCA

The Digital Citizens Alliance is a nonprofit, 501(c)(6) organization that is a consumer-oriented coalition focused on educating the public and policymakers on the threats that consumers face on the Internet. Digital Citizens wants to create a dialogue on 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. Visit us at www.digitalcitizensalliance.org.

If you have additional questions, contact Adam Benson at 202.999.92014 or [email protected]

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