Faizan Haider is a technology expert with many years of experience in the tech & cyber security industry.
Free streaming services can be tempting, but you should avoid using them if you don’t want to risk your security! Here’s why.
How many times has it happened that you’ve stumbled upon a streaming site while searching for the show you want to watch?
These free streaming services might have a wealth of global content, but they don’t come without a cost.
Using free streaming sites can land you in legal trouble as well as compromise the security of your device.
There’s a reason why officials have launched a crackdown on such platforms (more on this below).
In this article, we’ll go over the security risks of illegal streaming platforms and what you can do to keep yourself safe:
As you probably know, not all streaming services are illegal. There are many popular (and legal) streaming sites such as Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. These platforms go through the proper channels to secure licensing agreements with creators to host their content. They ensure that content owners are compensated for viewership.
Free streaming services like 123Movies or Popcorn Time stream copyrighted videos without compensating content creators. They upload downloads or recordings of movies and shows to unaffiliated sites, but there’s a legal area when it comes to watching content from such platforms.
Laws vary greatly from country to country, but in most cases, these sites aren’t illegal to use. However, hosting these platforms or uploading/downloading files is usually illegal.
Free streaming sites aren’t secure, period. When we visit such platforms, we don’t think about taking robust security measures. Many services don’t stick around for too long and put little to no effort in keeping their viewers safe.
Here are three common security risks of using free streaming sites:
1. Data Leaking & Sharing
Some platforms encourage users to create accounts to enjoy their services, but offer minimal protection of your personal data. Since they don’t charge you any money, they might even sell the information to third-parties for a profit.
Even if they don’t engage in data sharing of any kind, the site’s poor security measures make it easy for cybercriminals to steal your data. Data breaches such as these leave you vulnerable to identity theft and other scams.
2. Accidental Download of Torrents
While watching movies and shows on free streaming services won’t likely result in legal consequences (that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible), the same can’t be said about torrents. They’re not only traceable but also illegal if you’re downloading copyrighted content.
Most free streaming sites give you an option to download as well, and one wrong click could initiate the downloading of a torrent that might get you into legal hot waters. So, it’s important to exercise caution when navigating these services.
3. Malware Infections
Another major concern of using free streaming platforms is that your device will end up getting infected by dangerous malware. These services are breeding grounds for spyware, ransomware, and other malicious software.
When you go to these sites, you’re usually welcomed with tons of pop-ups that contain malware. You don’t even have to click them as they may download automatically. This can put both your device and sensitive information at risk.
Anyone using the internet for streaming or otherwise should follow some basic measures to keep their devices safe. These include but are not limited to:
Use Legal Streaming Sites
As discussed above, using free streaming platforms is just too risky. There are many legal and safe platforms available. Most of them don’t cost an arm and a leg & can be shared with your family and friends as well.
Note: It’s worth pointing out that not all free streaming sites are illegal and unsafe. Some legit options include Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi TV, Vudu, Kanopy, and XUMO. Even Peacock has a free tier that you can take advantage of.
Activate Antivirus Software
It doesn’t matter what sites you visit, any computer or mobile device with access to the internet is at risk of getting infected by malicious software. Using antivirus programs and keeping them up-to-date is a great way to protect yourself from such attacks.
Avoid Sharing Data with Untrusted Platforms
It’s never a good idea to share your personal data with unknown services that you don’t trust. Many people prefer to have a secondary email account for occasions like these, but you’re better off avoiding it completely.
Don’t Click on Suspicious Links
Though some malware downloads automatically, most of them require users to download them on their own. Given that nobody would download malware knowingly, hackers secretly embed them in disguised images or hyperlinks. If you come across any suspicious download prompts or links, make sure not to click them.
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