The Dangers of Free Streaming Sites

I recently read an article from MyBroadband that inspired me to attempt some research of my own.

This article made mention that ISPs around the country have reported a steep drop in PTP (Torrent) Connections. What this translate to is a steep drop in the downloading of pirated media content.

However, this does not mean that content piracy has stopped. It seems that, instead of downloading files onto their local machines, “Pirates” have taken to streaming their content to navigate around the blocks in place to stop people from downloading illegal content.

Now this blog post is not about bashing or shaming people that make use of pirated content. This is more about shedding a light on some of the dangers of making use of pirate streaming sites.

Because we love getting our hands on content before it hits the mainstream streaming sites and heavy media consumers may run short of the content/genres that they enjoy, these are just some of the factors that could push even the more cautious consumers towards making use of these illicit sites.

But the potential perils of using these sites far outweigh the safety of your digital footprint.

Let’s consider a few of the most popular pirate streaming sites: 123Movies and Popcorn Time, both of which push content via a desktop app as well as an Android app. To most people, the pop ups and ads from these sites are just a small nuisance that gets closed once they pop up.

However, what we often don’t know is that in the “backend” these pop ups can install browser trackers or even ransomware and malware on your device. These malicious software programs that get dropped onto your machine without your consent or knowledge can expose your personal information to unethical people or, in cases of ransomware, they can access and encrypt all your information, lock you out of your machine, and hold your own information at ransom requiring you to pay in bitcoin to get your information back.

As much as I was theoretically aware of the risks, I was curious to find out what actually goes on behind the scenes. I decided to test the Popcorn Time app on my Android tab.

At first glance, the app does function perfectly, and it does look safe to use. I selected a series and selected the option to download an episode. Immediately I was prompted to download another app in order to make use of this feature. I was sceptical of course but, putting myself in the shoes of a consumer, I decided to download this new app so that I could eventually get to the series I’d chosen to watch.

Popcorn Time asked me to download another app.

Once this app was downloaded, I immediately noticed random pop up and banner ads opening up in my other apps like WhatsApp.

An example of a pop up that randomly opened on my phone
An example of a pop up that opened on my phone.

After running through the installed apps in my devices system software I found several strange applications. This right away shows me that my device is compromised and that this strange app that I have installed now has permissions over my device and could be sending any if not all my information out.

xHelper is a type of Android malware
xHelper is a type of Android malware.

So before making use of apps such as Cartoon HD or Popcorn Time make yourself aware of the dangers attached to the use of these applications.