Surge in traffic to piracy websites could turn into flood of malware-ridden PCs

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Traffic to illegal movie and TV sites has surged in Europe and North America since lockdown measures were first introduced according to a new study from Muso.

The London-based piracy analytics company's data shows that visits to illegal streaming and download sites rose by 41.4 percent in the US and by 42.5 percent in the UK during the last week of March when compared to the same time period in February.

Muso identified a similar pattern across Europe where visits to piracy sites were up by 66 percent in Italy, 50.4 percent in Spain and 35.5 percent in Germany over the same period.

All of these piracy spikes roughly line up with when lockdown measures or stay-at-home orders were issued, highlighting the fact that bored consumers were more likely to turn to piracy once they ran out of legal content to watch on streaming sites such as Netflix.

Online piracy

According to Muso, the figures from its study represent “an unprecedented increase” in traffic to online piracy sites during the last week of March when “demand for content via piracy grew exponentially”. However, just as demand for online piracy grew during the coronavirus outbreak, so too did demand for legal online streaming services with Netflix adding a record 15.8m subscribers during Q1 2020. 

Another interesting insight gained from Muso's data is the fact that visits to TV piracy sites were significantly higher than those to film piracy sites. In the US, the firm observed 601.3m total visits to TV piracy sites at the end of March compared with just 137.4m total visits to film piracy sites.

Visiting either illegal streaming or downloading sites can open up consumers to a range of security issues. For instance, downloading files from these sites could infect a user's machine with malware that could be used to steal their passwords and any other sensitive information stored on their computers.

Thankfully though, a number of streaming services such as HBO have made their content free to users while SlingTV's Happy Hour Across America lets users watch the service's content free of charge from 5pm till midnight. 

Piracy not only hurts content makers but it could also infect your PC with a nasty virus or even put your identity at risk online.

Via The Hollywood Reporter

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.