Game of Thrones downloads could be hiding dangerous malware

(Image credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones fans keen to get a head-start on the newest episodes have been warned to take precaution when watching and downloading online.

The  hugely-popular HBO series, which is set to start its final season soon, was named as the most popular choice for hackers to use as a shield to spread malware.

In a worldwide study by security firm Kaspersky Lab surveying 31 of the most popular TV shows worldwide over the last two years, Game of Thrones came first in a slightly less desirable struggle for top spot, ahead of The Walking Dead and Arrow.

Malware is coming

Overall, the series accounted for 17 percent of all the infected pirated content in 2018, with 33 types and 505 different families of threats hiding behind the Game of Thrones title.

In total, 20,934 users suffered a Game of Thrones-related attack, despite being the only TV show in Kaspersky Lab's list that did not release new episodes in 2018 - with ‘Winter Is Coming' – the very first episode of the show – was the one most actively used by cybercriminals.

In fact, the first and the last episodes of every Game of Thrones season analysed by Kaspersky Lab turned out the most dangerous, hiding the largest number of malicious files  and affecting the most users.

Trojan attacks were found to be the most common, with threats often hiding in shortcuts downloaded via a torrent or email, with adware and downloaders also found to rank highly in the list of threats.

With the new series of Game of Thrones set to launch in just a few weeks, Kaspersky Lab says it is expecting a raft of new threats to emerge, and is urging users everywhere to stay vigilant.

It advises users to pay close attention to website authenticity, check file extensions are legitimate, and exercise caution when clicking on links and downloading torrents.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.