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Why downloading movies or music files is perfect for malware

Game of Thrones has officially become the most illegally downloaded TV show in history; receiving over a million downloads in less than a day. At its peak, 160,000 users were downloading the file at the same time. Unfortunately, this means that all of those people could have been exposed to malware and other viruses.

Ignoring the legal and moral concerns relating to download unlicensed music and video from the internet (of which there are many), there’s an issue that’s often ignored in the debate about piracy – an issue that’s potentially much more dangerous. Malware.

Pirated files are the perfect place for malware to spread, because you can’t be sure of who is giving you the file, what the file contains or what you might accidentally download when trying to find the file.

Why downloading is perfect for malware

It’s easier to understand how dangerous downloaded pirated files are if you know a little about how they are distributed. Downloading from file-sharing websites (like mega.co.nz) or using “torrents” (from the much publicised Pirate Bay) means that you’re literally taking a file off another computer user somewhere in the world.

The website you visit to find the file either hosts it for the user (with no questions asked), or if it’s a “torrent” file, simply provides information about how to download that file from many users. This unregulated system means it’s perfected for exchanging pirated files, but also causes three big problems:

First, you have to decide whether the other user is trustworthy or not – and you have no idea who they are. While there are many people who put files on the internet simply because they like to help other people out, there are many others who do it with malicious intent. How do you know which is which?

The second issue is, how well does this person take care of his own computer? Even if he is trustworthy, he’s probably been downloading lots of other files from various unknown sources. If that’s the case, how do you know he hasn’t contracted a piece of malware, which is then using his computer to distribute itself around the web?

The third problem is the websites themselves. How do you know that the websites you are visiting won’t damage your computer?

Plenty of websites claiming to offer you free movies or music actually just say those things to attract you. Once you’re on their site, however, they then hit you with lots of advertising, and potentially, lots of malware.

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3 Responses to Why downloading movies or music files is perfect for malware

  1. Raghav says:

    Hi you have a nice site over here! Thanks for sharing this interesting stuff for us! If you keep up this good work I’ll visit your weblog again. Thanks!

  2. LoL says:

    You actually said nothing about music or movies in particularly. Movies and music are the most secure things to download. .mp3 files and .mkv files don’t contain malicious software.

    • Norman Norman says:

      Hello,

      An important point in the article is that a user will receive files that have unknown origins. Often, torrented media file packages contain additional files with ads for certain torrent distributors etc. In addition, we see examples where executable files carrying malware or unwanted software is named in a way that make them look like mp3’s or mpeg’s in the windows explorer, but will indeed be executed when clicked on.

      To answer your question, media files can indeed carry malware by exploiting vulnerabilities in multimedia codecs.

      Norman

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