Bootleg streaming devices are becoming more popular by the minute, as they promise free, unlimited entertainment content, including TV shows, brand new movies, and elite sports games, which would otherwise be available only through a paid streaming service. These bootleg streaming devices can also include compromised versions of legitimate streaming devices such as Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Kodi boxes.
For years, consumers have been utilizing these devices to stream their favorite shows free of the exorbitant costs often associated with cable packages, but, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as free lunch. According to research by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), most of these streaming devices are targeted by hackers and packed with pre-installed malware that greatly compromises people’s cybersecurity from the place where they should feel safest -their homes.
The illicit, pirated devices, which are not available in stores, but can be bought online on eBay, Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace, are used just like legitimate devices such as Roku box or Apple TV; they are plugged into a TV and connected to a Wi-Fi network. However, once connected, the malware in the bootleg device’s hardware, or accompanying apps such as Mobdro, FreeNetflix, Exodus, or Krypton, starts collecting users’ Wi-Fi usernames and passwords, unbeknownst to them. From there, sensitive data, such as the users’ photos, videos and financial accounts, becomes vulnerable to security attacks from other devices connected to the same network.
The cybersecurity threat for these bootleg streaming devices should not be taken lightly, considering that there are more than 12 million active users in North America. Unaware of the security risks, people plug in the pirated streaming devices and provide access to their networks, opening the door to a series of cyberattacks. These cyberattacks are dangerous not only for the users themselves, but for cybersecurity overall, since they enable hackers to access millions of devices, from smart TVs, to phones, tablets, and even smart home components such as thermostats or refrigerators.
So if you’re looking for a streaming device and you come across one that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Save yourself the headache and stay away from pirate devices, even if it means spending the extra money. Legitimate devices and streaming services are the only safe way to enjoy entertainment content at home.