Cyber Criminals Using Family Movies To Target New Victims

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Over the past few months, we’ve seen a significant increase in media consumption across the globe. In an effort to comply with various governments’ stay-at-home orders, people are spending more time online than ever before, virtually connecting with others and keeping up to date on the news. But one of the biggest spikes we’ve seen in media consumption has been in the entertainment streaming landscape.

With the introduction of Quibi, HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock in the last few months, we’ve arguably reached the point of a streaming glut. “[T]here has never been a point in history where so much original content is available,” says Alexia Quadrani, Head of U.S. Media Equity Research. And while these new platforms have certainly provided competition to “old” favorites such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, they’re not hurting, either. J.P. Morgan reports that about 15.8 million people subscribed to Netflix in the first quarter of 2020—surpassing J.P. Morgan’s estimate by 7 million. Verizon also reported that video streaming is up 12% amid the global pandemic.

Now, whether or not this increase is sustainable is still up for debate (according to Doug Anmuth, Head of J.P. Morgan U.S. Internet Equity Research), especially since many people would prefer not to have 10 or more streaming subscriptions. However, before you start browsing the web for free ways to view your favorite content, consider this warning from Baker Nanduru, VP of Consumer Endpoint Segment at McAfee:

History has proven that cyber criminals follow consumer trends and behaviors to educate their scam strategies. It’s important that consumers stay alert while online and avoid malicious websites that may install malware or steal personal information and passwords.

According to Business Wire, McAfee (a computer security company) analyzed more than a hundred different entertainment titles available legally from streaming providers to see which ones were most likely to have a “free” scam version. At the top of the list were popular family movies The Incredibles, Aladdin, The Lion King and Frozen 2. With children home from school and parents balancing work and childcare, this isn’t surprising. Cyber criminals regularly track changes in social trends, like school closures, and use those opportunities to exploit new victims. They rely on children (who might be more likely to click on a questionable link) and harried parents (who might be desperately looking for something to entertain their kids) to open the cyber doors for them.

While this may be disconcerting for many families, it’s also not something you necessarily need to fear. McAfee offers simple, practical tips to avoid getting scammed, the first and most obvious of which is to “be careful what you click.” What they mean by that is don’t download a “free” version of a movie or TV show from some random website. The safest thing to do (even though it might cost a little more dough) is to subscribe to a streaming site that offers the content or to purchase and download the movie from sources like iTunes or Amazon.

McAfee also recommends refraining from using illegal streaming sites. Many of these sites (such as uTorrent and BitTorrent) are filled with malware disguised as pirated videos. So, circling back to the first tip, “do your device a favor and stream the show from a reputable source.”

Some other useful tips that you might already be doing are to “protect your online realm with a cybersecurity solution” and to “use parental control software.” Following these little tidbits could protect you from getting hacked or having your private information stolen.

If you still need some suggestions on actual free content, Judith Bitterli put together this list for McAfee. And, of course, you can always check out #FocusAtHome by Focus on the Family. We’re curated an entire library of family friendly content, including favorites like Adventures in Odyssey and Radio Theatre for your family to enjoy from home completely for free.