Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Illegally Streaming Live Sports: It’s Free For A Reason?

The world’s biggest soccer leagues the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga are underway along with the Champions League and the IAAF World Championship in Doha. For some sports fans a simple alternative is turning to illegal streams online of whatever sport they like. It’s less expensive and at times the quality rivals that of DStv and other pay-TV services without the convenience of course.

It was distorted pictures, constant buffering and malware that convinced even the cheapest, poorest fans to pay up for sports if at all possible. Today the unnavigable websites have given way to amateurish but clean interfaces.

Fuzzy feeds have given way to crystal clear ones. The pornographic anime ads haven’t entirely disappeared, nor have malicious pop-ups and untimely lags. But the quality and availability is remarkable. If a broadcast exists, anywhere from around the world, it likely exists on the dark web.

According to piracy data company MUSO, there 362.7 million visits to sports piracy websites in January 2019 alone. That’s because the quality of illegal streams, once shoddy, is now often superb. These ‘alternative’ methods have some consequences that sports fans should keep in mind before hitting that play button.

Having an app for illegal streaming is pretty convenient as you don’t have to hop through multiple websites looking for a stream. The ugly side of this is that these apps also have access to a lot of data on your phone like your passwords, images, documents and at times even financial information (debit/credit card info) all other information stored on your device can also be accessed by these apps.

If you download one of these illegal pirate apps or add-ons, the chances are that you’ll also download malware. That could put at risk the laptop computer, tablet or cellphone you use for sensitive transactions like online banking or shopping. It could also expose your, password, photos and other personal information. In recent times it has been observed a sharp increase in social media accounts and websites being targets by hackers which could be as a result of such persons streaming content via illegal apps.

Back in 2016, a study was conducted by the Computer Science Department, of the Stony Brook University and it found that of the 5000 sites studied as many as 50% had malicious software transmitted to users’ devices through extensions. If a website offers to install an extension for you to access its content that’s usually a red flag. Unfortunately, these extensions will also affect the way you browse on other sites and not just the site you wanted to access.

If you use altered hardware streaming boxes they too come with their own set of risks; here’s what most users don’t know: by plugging the device into a home network, they are enabling hackers to bypass the security such as a router’s firewall designed to protect your systems. If apps on the box or that are later downloaded have malware, the user has helped the hacker past network security. Like a Trojan horse, the pirate apps are welcomed into the consumer’s home/office because they purport to offer the gift of free content, only to use their position inside the walls to launch an attack.

If it’s free, you’re usually paying for it but without knowing what the payment actually is. A very risky road to be on…

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