Fantasy epic Game of Thrones returns to the UK tonight for its eighth and final season. But for fans looking to torrent Game of Thrones, cybersecurity experts have a warning: malware is coming.
Many fans have downloaded pirated copies, experts warn that hackers could be taking advantage of the show’s popularity to trick victims into downloading malware instead of the episode. The malware could then be used to monitor keystrokes and steal personal data to sell on in the black market or use in cyberattacks.
The popular US show has pulled in millions of viewers each year since it first aired in 2011, with an average of 32.8 million people tuning in per episode in season seven.
For six years in a row it has been the most pirated series. According to the Guinness Book of Records, last season’s finale, which aired on August 27, 2017, was shared across more than 400,000 torrents at once. In sum, season seven was pirated more than one billion times.
Game of Thrones torrents and streams
In conjunction with torrenting, fans have also turn to streaming Game of Thrones on unauthorized websites. These sites are often full of pop-ups, some of which contain malicious links.
According to Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at IT security firm ESET, the potential for malware is staggering, and people who are inclined to torrent irresistible content will have to make sure they are sufficiently protected .
If not protected, they risk becoming victims of cybercriminals who could mine personal data such as credit card details, addresses and personal shopping habits, all to be sold on the black market.”
Although downloading a pirated torrent is illegal, half of UK adults have searched for a pirated version of their favorite TV show.
Given the prevalence of malware on torrent sites, unsanctioned streaming sites, and in pirated downloads, many Game of Thrones fans in the UK will run a high risk of infection when attempting to stream or download the new season for free.
When you play the game of torrenting, you win or you… get infected
The surest way to avoid getting infected by malware is to watch Game of Thrones legitimately.
Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at cybersecurity firm Thycotic, believes that Torrenting copyrighted data is an illegal activity and should be avoided as it could result in a penalty or, even worse, jail time.
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Even beyond the illegal concerns is the risks of the content being malicious or including malicious malware. In many incidents, the content being torrented has been modified to include potentially dangerous code which could infect your systems with viruses, steal your identity or your password and ultimately cause financial fraud.
US audiences can watch Game of Thrones at 9PM EST on HBO on Sunday evenings, while UK audiences can catch it on Sky Atlantic on Monday nights at 9PM BST.
The series can also be watched through varies platforms such as Now TV and Hulu. But it is the spiralling cost of subscriptions that is pushing people to torrent Game of Thrones, says ESET’s Moore.
Many content streaming platforms have become more competitive over the years, with most of them owning exclusivity to popular shows like Game of Thrones to gain subscribers.
Verdict does not condone downloading pirated content. However, for those choosing to torrent Game of Thrones in spite of the risk, checking the extension of the download and ensuring your computer is protected by a good anti-virus software can prevent malware infecting your computer. Furthermore, installing an ad-blocker can also reduce the risk of malicious pop-ups fooling users into downloading something they shouldn’t.