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Downloading Pirated 'Game Of Thrones' Puts Your Computer At Risk Of Malware

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Kaspersky Lab is cautioning the public about downloading the upcoming final season of "Game of Thrones" through illegal means. Pirated downloads of popular TV shows were one of the most common sources of malware infections in 2018.  ( Game of Thrones | YouTube )

A cybersecurity firm has advised Game of Thrones fans to watch the show through legitimate means to avoid the risk of catching malware.

Moscow-based online security company Kaspersky Lab published a new report on how criminals make use of TV programs to infect devices with malware. The more popular and downloaded a show is, the more likely it is to spread malicious software over the internet.

Most Pirated TV Show

The popularity of HBO's Game of Thrones has given the high-fantasy series the moniker of "the most pirated TV show" on the web. While it speaks about how in-demand the program is across countries, it does not translate to any benefit -- monetarily or otherwise -- for the owners of the intellectual property.

In 2018, more than 20,000 internet users were affected by malware after illegally downloading episodes of Game of Thrones. This represents about one-fifth or 17 percent of all infected cases during this period.

Interestingly, users pirated Game of Thrones even though HBO did not release a new season last year. Among the most downloaded were the first and final episodes of each past season. These served as the most probable carriers of malware. The show's very first episode titled "Winter is Coming" is reportedly the worst malware offender of all.

Kaspersky's cybersecurity team discovered 33 types of programs associated with illegal downloads of Game of Thrones. Oddly enough, two of the most common threats found were named "Not-a-virus: AdWare" and "Not-a-virus: Downloader".

The company said it is already anticipating a possible increase in malware infections with the debut of the show's latest season.

"It won't come as a big surprise to see a new wave of malicious activity accompanying the release of the final season of Game of Thrones in April 2019," Kaspersky said.

Other famous TV programs that posed the biggest malware threat to users are AMC's The Walking Dead, The CW's Arrow, USA Network's Suits, History Channel's Vikings. and CBS's The Big Bang Theory,

The CW's Supernatural, ABC's Grey's Anatomy, and NBC's This Is Us are also sources of malicious programs in 2018.

Malware Infections In 2018

As many as 126,340 internet users were affected by malicious programs in 2018, according to Kaspersky. The number is less than one-third of the total 188,769 cases recorded in 2017.

Meanwhile, the number of users infected by malware through popular content, such as porn, dropped by as much as 45 percent last year.

Malware count on the internet also fell by as much as 30 percent in 2018. Kaspersky said it only detected 57,133 threats compared to the 82,091 samples were caught in 2017.

The cybersecurity firm saw 451,636 total cases of malware attacks last year, which is a 22 percent drop from figures the year prior.

Kaspersky believes the declines might be a direct result of Google's crackdown on torrent websites, which were favorite sources of pirated content online by scammers.

IP owners have also taken a more active role in hunting and shutting down such websites all over the internet. One example of this is when they brought down the popular downloading site Leechers Paradise.

How To Stay Away From Malicious Programs

To avoid getting victimized by malicious software online, Kaspersky recommends staying clear of pirate download websites. Users should always keep an eye out for potential threats, such as Trojans, that could take over control of computers.

Here are some easy-to-follow tips from the cybersecurity firm:

  • Double check the authenticity of websites before accessing them.
  • Make sure the spelling of a company's name or the URL format is correct before downloading content from them. Fake websites often have some anomalies that could be identified.
  • Avoid downloading files with suspicious file extensions. Malicious programs typically end with a ".exe" extension.
  • Be careful in using torrents to download content from the web. Check other users' comments about a particular program before using them.
  • Stay clear of links that dubious promises, such as giving exclusive access to TV show episodes.
  • Only use reputable and reliable cybersecurity options for devices.
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