MalStreams, a new streaming service being promoted to commuters passing through London’s Paddington Station, attracted the attention of many. After all, how could one refuse the offer of “Free Streaming for Life.” They didn’t know that MalStreams was set up to be a pirate site. Fortunately for them, it turned out to be a consumer awareness campaign designed to promote the dangers of piracy – including malware, for which MalStreams was named.
After giving visitors a bit of a scare, MalStreams led visitors to an informative Web site called BeStreamWise, created by a partnership between the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the British Association for Screen Entertainment, Sky, the Premier League and others.
Dangers illustrated by the BeStreamWise site include illegal streams and apps delivered over free streaming sites, apps and devices could put consumers at risk of criminals accessing personal data and inflicting attacks through malware. It also warns of exposure to fraud through data theft and to exposure to inappropriate content.
Don’t ignore the disclaimers
After visitors clicked through an extensive range of terms and conditions, they were alerted that ‘MalStreams’ was in fact not a streaming service at all and had been set up to demonstrate the risks involved in accessing content from unofficial sources.
The BeStreamWise partners recommend some basic safeguards, including:
- Beware of online pop-up ads and ads for streaming services online. Verify their legitimacy independently by researching the brand.
- Never share personal or financial details online or elsewhere unless you are certain you are dealing with a legitimate brand.
- Use unique strong passwords with numbers and special characters for all your accounts. Never reuse your password. Enable multi-factor authentication.
- Check your bank statements regularly.
- You can be contacted via phone, text, email or through social media. Scammers will ask the victim to give something whether that’s money, information or even to click on links or open attachments.
- Be suspicious of adverts that use urgency or other pressure tactics to get you to buy or subscribe. Double-check before sending money or information, especially if you feel emotional or time pressure to do so.
Shades of earlier campaigns with similar intent
The informative nature of BeStreamWise echoes of the ongoing Stream Safely campaign by the US-based Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM).
The campaign also echoes of a 2022 campaign by DirecTV GO in Brazil, whose ad agency developed a full 90-minute football match with fictitious players, scripted a game, and distributed it over that streaming service. The average length of stay by viewers was 19 minutes, which was sufficient time for DirecTV GO’s brand and anti-piracy messages to reach each viewer multiple times. Via social media, it had attracted more than nine million views.
BeStreamWise site. Accessed October 2, 2023. A partnership between the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the British Association for Screen Entertainment, Sky, the Premier League, ITV, Crimestoppers, and the Irish Industry Trust
Free Streaming for Life. YouTube video. Accessed October 2, 2023. By BeStreamWise
MalStreams site. Web site. Accessed October 2, 2023. Set up by BeStreamWise partners.
Brazil: DirecTV GO anti-piracy campaign attracts fans to fake football match conjured by its ad agency. Article. March 29, 2022. by Steven Hawley. Piracy Monitor
Why it matters
One in three illegal streamers in the UK (32%) say that they, or someone they know, have been a victim of fraud, scams and identity theft, according to a study by DynData quoted by BeStreamWise, which aligns with findings by the UKIPO in 2022.
Pirate services are “operated by sophisticated criminal networks, often involved in other types of crime. Upon accessing and registering for these, users could unknowingly open themselves to fraud, scams, and identity theft. Giving away personal data and visiting unfamiliar links are two tactics which allow criminals and hackers the ability to attack and gain control of devices and networks,” says the site.
“Consumers should be able to make informed choices through greater awareness and understanding of the risks of accessing pirated content, and the damage this can cause to society and communities,” said Miles Rees, the UKIPO’s Deputy Director of IP Enforcement. “We are pleased to support the ongoing work of our partners in industry and law enforcement to raise awareness of the harms of piracy, helping to disrupt criminal networks and empower consumers to make informed choices,” he said.