About 1,000 UK sport fans engaged in illegal streaming might be visited by authorities over the next few weeks amid a major crackdown on piracy.
As part of the so-called Operation Raider, West Mercia Police seized an illegal streaming platform's database, which allowed officers to trace back the names of subscribers benefiting from the illicit service.
The UK-based illegal streaming platform was responsible for supplying entertainment and sports content via modified boxes, Firesticks, and subscriptions.
Anti-piracy organization FACT came together with UK police forces not just to remind users that illegal streaming is a crime, but also to warn them of the online risks associated with it, such as malware and other cyberattacks.
We're pleased to work with @factuk, @ROCUWM and the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) to raise awareness of the risks associated with illegal streaming. 📺💻Find out more 👇 https://t.co/JgOZi79rUTJanuary 10, 2023
Piracy - not just a legal matter
When it comes to illegal streaming, it is easy to overlook possible criminal charges. That's especially true for those users who simply seek to watch a movie or football match on their own device for free.
However, as FACT pointed out, it's important for people to understand that there is a concrete risk of criminal prosecution.
"In 2021, two individuals, Paul Faulkner and Stephen Millington, were sentenced to a total of 16 months in prison for watching unauthorized streams," the company noted in a blog post.
What's worse, legal charges are just one side of the coin with illegal streaming.
"Accessing films, TV series and live sports events from unauthorized sources is illegal, can expose consumers to risks such as data theft and malware, and can help fund organized criminal groups," explained Gary Robinson, Detective Chief Inspector for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
A recent investigation into 50 illicit streaming sites found out that all the platforms analyzed were displaying malicious content, FACT reported.
From viruses and adware to spyware and Trojans: this malware can infect users' devices without even the need to click on dangerous content. Accessing these kinds of platforms is enough to be at risk of attack.
Users confirmed such predictions, with about half of UK illegal streamers reporting to have been or know someone who fell victim to identity theft, phishing scams, financial fraud or data loss as a result of piracy-related activities.
"By working in partnership, sharing intelligence lawfully and efficiently, the network aims to ensure that government agencies and law enforcement will help reduce the risk, threat and harm from serious and organized crime," said Jason Grove, National Coordinator at the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN).
When asked about the repercussions for the UK streamers involved in the case, FACT said to TorrentFreak that no legal persecutions are planned at this stage.
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Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org