In the past, several cybersecurity firms have already claimed that hackers are actively using sophisticated ways to attack people’s devices, and now, at a time when binge watching is a prevalent trend globally, these cybercriminals are infecting devices with malware by using the names of popular TV shows. According to Kaspersky Labs, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Arrow are the shows receiving the most attention from attackers to execute a strike.
TV shows have become one of the most popular sources of entertainment globally, however, other methods of digital distribution like torrents and illegal online streaming pose threat to devices on which the content is downloaded/consumed. “In many regions, unlike legitimate resources, torrent trackers and hosted files may send a user a file that looks like an episode of a TV show, but is in fact malware with a similar name,” Kaspersky Labs said in its ‘Game of Threats: How cybercriminals use popular TV shows to spread malware’ report.
The firm says that since TV shows can be downloaded from illegitimate resources easily, they can be replaced with malware-carrying versions. The researchers from the Russia-based company studied such compromised files in 2018 and 2017, and found that Game of Thrones was leading the list (of malware-infected shows) in both years. In 2018, it accounted for 17 percent of all infected pirated content, with 20,934 attacked users, followed by The Walking Dead, with 18,794, and Arrow, with 12,163.
“This is despite the fact that in 2018, there were no new episodes of Game of Thrones released, while the other shows in the ranking were accompanied by high profile promotional campaigns,” Kaspersky said. It added that in every case observed, the malware distributors opted for the first and the last episode of each season because they attract the most viewers.
“The first and last episodes are likely to be at greatest risk of malicious spoofing. Online fraudsters tend to exploit people’s loyalty and impatience, so may promise brand new material for download that is in fact a cyberthreat. Keeping in mind that the final season of Game of Thrones starts this month, we would like to warn users that it is highly likely there will be a spike in the amount of malware disguised as new episodes of this show,” Anton V. Ivanov, Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement.