Illegal football streaming sites are absolutely riddled with dangerous malware

Man United vs Man City
(Image credit: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Analysis of illegal websites used by hundreds of thousands to stream football matches worldwide has revealed fans are putting themselves at considerable risk.

According to a report from cybersecurity firm Webroot, almost all (92%) illegal football streaming websites contain some form of malicious content, from malware and phishing lures to social engineering scams.

The likelihood is, Webroot claims, that anyone that used an illegal website to watch last weekend’s Carabao Cup Final or action from Europe’s top domestic leagues will have been exposed to a sophisticated cryptocurrency scam designed to lift banking credentials.

In other cases, the sites analyzed were equipped with mechanisms to hijack the victim’s web browser, poisoning search results and taking control of push notifications to bombard the person with malicious ads. 

Illegal football streaming

With subscriptions for legitimate sports channels costing tens of dollars each month (and even more for the multiple subscriptions required to access all matches), many people are willing to take a gamble on illegal websites.

Although some will be blind to the risks, many others take every possible step to protect themselves, by always using a VPN and antivirus service and taking care when closing out tabs and pop-ups. However, Webroot maintains it is impossible to use illegal football streaming websites without incurring risk.

“These illegal streaming sites are a maze of scams, malware and dangerous content. Simply put there’s no ‘safe’ way to use them without putting yourself at risk,” said Kelvin Murray, Senior Threat Researcher at Webroot.

“The level of sophistication and detail behind the Bitcoin scam we found is a hallmark of a well thought-through and well-resourced criminal operation. These sites are purposely built to trap users into clicking on something nasty – whether that’s a scam or fake app, or serving up explicit and dangerous content.”

For seasoned web users, some of the scams found on football streaming sites will be easy enough to spot, characterized by poor spelling and grammar or promises that sound too good to be true.

However, the Webroot report provides a timely reminder that nobody is immune to a slip in concentration or lapse of judgement, so the only way to truly stay protected is to find another way to watch the footie.

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.