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The popularity of video streaming services has taken off in the past few years. It’s become easier to stream video through smart TVs, streaming boxes that connect to your not-so-smart TV, and even streaming sticks. These devices let you stream video through popular apps like Hulu, Netflix, SlingTV, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube TV. Unfortunately, there are other apps that let you watch illegal pirated content. And hackers are using those apps to spread malware. Here’s what you need to know.

Illegal pirated content is nothing new. We’ve alerted you that websites offering free movies and TV shows can infect your computer with malware. But the landscape is shifting. Purveyors of pirated content are now spreading apps and add-ons that work with popular streaming devices. If you download one of these illegal pirate apps or add-ons, the chances are good that you’ll also download malware.

If malicious software on the pirate app gets inside your wireless network, it may try to infect other devices connected to your network. That could put at risk the computer you use for sensitive transactions like online banking or shopping. It could also expose your photos and other personal information. The malware could allow hackers to:

  • Steal your credit card information and sell it to other hackers on the dark web.
  • Steal the log in credentials for sites you shop on and go on a spending spree.
  • Steal the log in credentials for your bank account and steal your money.
  • Use your computer to commit crimes.

Malware may also make your computer slow or non-responsive, serve pop-up windows or ads, or take you to sites you didn’t want to visit.

If you want to avoid downloading malware when you stream video, don’t watch pirated content. Period. Not online and not through a video streaming device.

If you get malware on your computer, update your computer’s security software and then run a scan.

Check out these tips for Microsoft Windows computers, Macs, and Chromebooks.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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tech unsavvy
May 02, 2019
Does this include watching things from utube?
May 02, 2019
A list of bogus apps would be helpful
Dr. Sheldon Cooper
May 02, 2019
I don't engage in downloading illegal content, but if I did I would expect my defenses (e.g., Microsoft Defender on Windows 10) to prevent the Malware infection. Is that not the case here? If not, why not?
May 02, 2019
How do I recognize that a site is pirated
May 02, 2019
Seems like this above situation is happening to my new LG TV ,when I tried to get the NBA play off thru Amazon via streaming, I was first brought to strange sites, saying use their way of getting streaming, when I disconnected and restarted again, I was brought to amother site claiming to help me , finally maneuverd to the correct Amazon site
May 02, 2019
I use free streaming sites all the time, and while what is being said here is true, there is a simple solution. Don't download anything, just watch from the site. There is no need to download anything. Have been doing this for years, and never once had a problem.
May 03, 2019

In reply to by Greyfur

They are saying the apps themselves will install malware on your device. Not the content your streaming whether jus downloaded or not.
May 14, 2019

In reply to by Biogirl

He's talking about using streaming websites, like 123 movies or Putlocker. Where you don't download any app. You just stream right from the web page. That's not what this article is referring to. It's referring to actual apps, like Popcorn Flix for your phone. He's right. I've been using them for years too. With no problems, other then the pop ups. But you can just x out if them, and go on to watching your movie for free without downloading, or installing anything on your computer. These will only work on a computer though, and many times not on Macs. I've never gotten these to work on my phone anyway. It may be possible? But I've never seen it done.
May 02, 2019
Interesting article, but it is not specifically helpful. The art of malware is 'not' tip people off that something is illegal. How is a consumer to know? Any example sites? And to say that this is now part of the landscape of streaming services that are legal just makes it all a bit nebulous. Is this article specifically helpful, are any tips offered on how to be careful before the fact. No.
FTC Staff
May 06, 2019

In reply to by Concerned

Learn more by following the links in this blog to read about signs of malware and how to protect yourself.

You can help yourself avoid malware. If a site or app offers free downloads or streams of well-known movies, popular TV shows, big-league sports, and absorbing games, the hidden cost of that "free" site is probably malware.

May 05, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

FTC still hasnt edited the article to include any helpful tips at all. I only see a response to a conment, somewhat far away from the actual article. ..what are we paying FTC for again?
FTC Staff
May 06, 2019

In reply to by Rlruby

For more information than appears in this blog post, follow the link to the FTC article about malware.

May 22, 2019

In reply to by Rlruby

Please name another agency that gave back over 2 billion to people in the span of year in refunds. We'll all wait in the comments section, but chances are you don't know of any. Don't bash the agency that is trying to help. Obviously you haven't read the article the FTC agent asked you to.
May 02, 2019
I got hit with an attempted scam/ransom the other day. I was looking up a recipe, and this notice came up on my screen stating it was from Microsoft, and I had to call the number on the screen. I couldn't exit the site, so I called the number and started to inform them about how unhappy I was, I also mentioned that he was mumbling and there was so much noise in the background which made the call feel like a scam, and all of a sudden he hung up, and my computer cleared. I have been complaining to the FTC for the last few weeks. all I am hearing is : unless there are a lot of complaints like mine, they can't help me . No one can, not the FTC, not my security, and not the computer companies, not even AT&T, which is my computer connection. So, it turns out cyber security can't help me unless there are more than 1 complaint.
MeMaw #1
May 31, 2019

In reply to by GigiBaby

The same thing happened to me. I couldn't get it to delete and even unplugged the computer--still there! I called the Geek Squid and was told it happens a lot. Never call a number that comes up on your screen (I didn't) esp. from Microsoft or click on the warning that you've been hacked and list a # for bit coin. The solution is go to task manager and close up what program your using ( firefox, IE, google, etc). Then go back into what search engine you use. I hope you have good virus protection since you did call that number.
May 02, 2019
can you tell us what apps are illegal ?
May 06, 2019

In reply to by arm1962

Any list of apps which contain malware would be extremely long and changing by the minute.
May 22, 2019

In reply to by DesertFlower

This is most intelligent comment so far. These things change constantly and until the FTC actually brings enough evidence for a case, they are not going to be making unsubstantiated claims. People are so clueless and don't know when to recognize an informative article when they see one.
May 24, 2019

In reply to by HappyCamper

I can confirm this information! Hackers intent on spreading malware/ransomeware are incredibly adept at coming up with new schemes, that it's impossible to publish any list of this type without assuming massive liability! There are a loy of things you can do about this if you just have an ounce of common sense. Not to denigrate anybody, but why even open an e-email or link, or website when it's from some one you've never heard of, or offers some ridiculous prize of any kind for free? Common sense must be combined with good anti-virus/malware software from a reputable source, which should be updated several times a day. This since the new variables seem to come out at a ridiculously fast rate! Good luck! My spulchak was infarcted by sum unkown varies witch U havr bean unarble ta got ris uvv, dang!
May 03, 2019
Thank you for all the articles. Fraudsters, these days, are very sophisticated. They operate at "arm's length", deceiving employees and customers, alike, for their own unjust enrichment. We need to know about and marginalize fraudulent actors. Identifying them is sometimes the hardest part because there are sometimes layers of misinformation and misdirection between the consumer and the "owner" who makes millions through fraud.
Really getting…
August 23, 2020
We have a new tv and an app has been automatically downloaded without consent on our tv , xumo streaming app , it has the option to uninstall yet when you try to remove it , you are unable to and a error appears ?