Cybercriminals are actively using new episodes of popular TV shows to distribute malware, research by Kaspersky Lab has found. Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Arrow are the shows receiving the most attention from attackers. These and other findings are published in a new report, ‘Game of Threats: How cybercriminals use popular TV shows to spread malware.’
TV shows are one of the most popular and universal types of entertainment, yet with the rise of torrents, online streaming, and other methods of digital distribution, they often suffer from copyright infringement. In many regions, such programs can now be consumed through illegal channels, such as torrent-trackers and illegal streaming platforms. Unlike legitimate resources, torrent trackers and hosted files may send a user a file that looks like an episode of a TV show, but is in fact malware with a similar name.
Seeing how easily TV shows downloaded from illegitimate resources can be replaced with malware-carrying versions, Kaspersky lab researchers took a closer look at such compromised files, covering both 2018 and 2017. Leading the list in both years was Game of Thrones. In 2018, it accounted for 17% of all infected pirated content, with 20,934 attacked users, followed by The Walking Dead, with 18,794, and Arrow, with 12,163.
This is despite the fact that in 2018, there were no new episodes of Game of Thrones released, while the other shows in the ranking were accompanied by high profile promotional campaigns.
In every case observed, the malware distributors opted for the first and the last episode of each season, with the launch episode the most actively used, for example, Game of Throne’s ‘The winter is coming’ episode in Season 1.
“We can see clearly that malware distributors exploit TV shows that are in high demand on pirated websites: these are usually actively promoted dramas or action series. The first and final episodes, attracting the most viewers, are likely to be at greatest risk of malicious spoofing. Online fraudsters tend to exploit people’s loyalty and impatience, so may promise brand new material for download that is in fact a cyberthreat. Keeping in mind that the final season of Game of Thrones starts this month, we would like to warn users that it is highly likely there will be a spike in the amount of malware disguised as new episodes of this show,” said Anton V. Ivanov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
To avoid falling victim to malicious programs pretending to be TV-shows, Kaspersky Lab recommends taking the following steps:
- Use only legitimate services with a proven reputation for producing and distributing TV-content.
- Pay attention to the downloaded file extension. Even if you are going to download TV-show episodes from a source you consider trusted and legitimate, the file should have an .avi, .mkv or mp4 extension or any others, yet definitely not the .exe.
- Pay extra attention to the websites’ authenticity. Do not visit websites allowing to watch TV-show until you are sure that they are legitimate and start with ‘https’. Check that the website is genuine, by double- checking the format of the URL or the spelling of the company name, before starting downloads.
- Don’t click on suspicious links, such as those promising an early view of a new episode; check the TV-show schedule and keep track of it.
- Use reliable security solution for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud.
Read the full text of the report on Securelist.com
Eugene Kaspersky posts from 2050
In his imagined blog entry from the year 2050, the Kaspersky Lab founder imagines an era of digital immunity
In recent years, digital systems have moved up to a whole new level. No longer assistants making life easier for us mere mortals, they’ve become the basis of civilisation — the very framework keeping the world functioning properly in 2050.
This quantum leap forward has generated new requirements for the reliability and stability of artificial intelligence. Although some cyberthreats still haven’t become extinct since the romantic era around the turn of the century, they’re now dangerous only to outliers who for some reason reject modern standards of digital immunity.
The situation in many ways resembles the fight against human diseases. Thanks to the success of vaccines, the terrible epidemics that once devastated entire cities in the twentieth century are a thing of the past.
However, that’s where the resemblance ends. For humans, diseases like the plague or smallpox have been replaced by new, highly resistant “post-vaccination” diseases; but for the machines, things have turned out much better. This is largely because the initial designers of digital immunity made all the right preparations for it in advance. In doing so, what helped them in particular was borrowing the systemic approaches of living systems and humans.
One of the pillars of cyber-immunity today is digital intuition, the ability of AI systems to make the right decisions in conditions where the source data are clearly insufficient to make a rational choice.
But there’s no mysticism here: Digital intuition is merely the logical continuation of the idea of machine learning. When the number and complexity of related self-learning systems exceeds a certain threshold, the quality of decision-making rises to a whole new level — a level that’s completely elusive to rational understanding. An “intuitive solution” results fromthe superimposition of the experience of a huge number of machine-learning models, much like the result of the calculations of a quantum computer.
So, as you can see, it has been digital intuition, with its ability to instantly, correctly respond to unknown challenges that has helped build the digital security standards of this new era.
M-Net to film Deon Meyer novel
A television adaptation of Deon Meyer’s crime novel Trackers is to be co-produced by M-Net, Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, and HBO subsidiary Cinemax, which will also distribute the drama series worldwide.
“Trackers is an unprecedented scripted television venture and MultiChoice and M-Net are proud to chart out new territory … allowing local and international talent to combine their world-class story-telling and production skills,” says MultiChoice CEO of General Entertainment, Yolisa Phahle.
HBO, Cinemax, and M-Net also launched a Producers Apprenticeship programme last year when the Cinemax series Warrior, coming to M-Net in July, was filmed in South Africa. Some other Cinemax originals screened on M-Net include Banshee, The Knick and Strike Back.
“Cinemax is delighted to partner with M-Net and ZDF in bringing Deon Meyer’s unforgettable characters and storytelling—all so richly rooted in the people and spectacular geography of South Africa—to screens around the world,” says Len Amato, President, HBO Films, Miniseries, and Cinemax.
Filming for Trackers has already started in locations across South Africa and the co-production partners have been working together on all aspects of production
Deon Meyer, whose award-winning crime novels have been translated into more than 20 languages, with millions of copies sold worldwide, serves as a supervising screenwriter and co-producer; British writer Robert Thorogood (Death in Paradise) is the showrunner. The team of South African writers on the project includes the Mitchell’s Plain playwright, screenwriter and director Amy Jephta (Die Ellen Pakkies Story) and local writer/directors Kelsey Egen and Jozua Malherbe.
The cast for the six-part miniseries includes Ed Stoppard, Rolanda Marais, James Alexander and Thapelo Mokoena.
Trackers will make its debut on M-Net 101 in October 2019 and will also be available on MultiChoice’s on-demand service, Showmax. The six-part drama series is produced by UK production company Three River Studios as well as South Africa’s Scene 23.