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New report exposes malware risks on pirate sites

by Digital Citizens Alliance — September 2022

This month a new report was released by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) examining the relationship between piracy websites, advertising intermediaries and ransomware. The report establishes how these players are all linked by the profit they receive at the expense of internet users and exposes how illicit actors use malicious ads, placed on pirate sites, to infect the devices of unsuspecting consumers and hold them to ransom. The DCA estimates that malvertising accounts for 12% of the total ads on piracy sites, generating USD $121 million annually in revenue.

An ‘unholy triangle’ has been identified in the report:

  1. The Pirate Operators

Piracy operators are luring users to their sites with the offer of free movies and TV shows but behind the scenes these operators are being paid by malvertisers for allowing access to their users.

  1. The Malvertisers

The criminals responsible for the ransomware are profiting each time a user clicks on a malicious ad and exposed themselves to ransomware, theft of their personal and financial information, and tracking of their online activity. They are specifically targeting pirate sites to take advantage of users lured by ‘free’ content and tapping into pirate operators desires to make money.

  1. The Ad Intermediaries

Legitimate ad intermediaries are also happy to turn a blind eye to both the advertising they are selling, and the sites they are selling it on. The report identified a number of legitimate companies facilitating from the illicit arrangement.

The report calls for improved site blocking, an investment in consumer awareness campaigns and a pro-active response from law enforcement, consumer protection watchdogs and the advertising industry.

The full report can be accessed here.

RELATED ARTICLE: Criminals reap US$1.34 billion in advertising annually from illegal entertainment websites and appsDigital Citizens Alliance, 12 August, 2021