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Hackers targeting illegal Game of Thrones downloaders

Posted at 7:38 AM, Apr 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-12 08:38:38-04

Trying to catch up on Game of Thrones episodes before Sunday night's final season premier? Technology experts advise against watching illegally, by downloading pirated content.

Clayton Petersen, an avid Game of Thrones viewer, said he used to download full episodes of the show, for free, and watch them on his computer.

"I'm sad to say I did that," Petersen said. "It's because I wasn't getting a student discount to pay for a streaming service at the time."

Now, he streams the episodes legitimately through Hulu.

But his computer still gives him problems.

The program he previously used to download the pirated files causes unnecessary windows to pop up.

A study from Kaspersky Lab indicates Petersen isn't alone.

The company compiled a list of the 31 most popular TV shows downloaded illegally in 2018.

It found Game of Thrones was the one that contained the most malware, calling the show "an unmatched leader in popularity not just among users but also among cybercriminals looking for the most effective way to distribute malware."

"Malware is an umbrella term for malicious software," said Jonathan Arnold, an Instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College. "It could be put onto your machine just to mess with you, but also for nefarious purposes."

He said one form of malware can track your keystrokes.

"If someone's wanting to gain access to your bank account, they can look at your keystrokes and figure out a username and password," Arnold said.

He said fixing malware on your computer can be a long and expensive process.

"It can be a big headache rather than just paying the subscription fee to watch legally," Arnold said.

Arnold noted that streaming Game of Thrones, or other shows, from free, illegal sources rather than legitimate subscription services can also leave your computer susceptible to malware.