Buyers beware


When you choose to stream shows illegally, you are channeling the money to pirates instead of the rightful owners. — 123rf.com

Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) warns consumers on the risk of malware that could attack their computers and home networks when subscribing to illegal streaming and downloading services.

“This could result in the theft of personal data, credit card fraud or even being held to ransom,” Casbaa Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros said in a statement.

“Legitimate, licensed services are far more reliable and secure way to obtain programming.”

A joint study conducted by the KU Leuven University in Belgium and the Stony Brook University in the United States found that around half of the ads hosted on illegal sports streaming sites are malicious.

The research, posted on the KU Leuven’s official website, claims that browsers like Google Chrome and Safari were more targeted than the rest. In some cases, the sites even detected ad-blocking software and tried to bypass it.

Last month, security research firm Check Point said that attackers had created malicious files disguised as subtitles – it allowed attackers to take over the victim’s device within seconds after a video was played with the infected subtitle file.

Besides illegal streaming and downloading, the use of unauthorised set-top box is also reportedly rampant in Malaysia.

Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) deputy director of Cyber Crime and Multimedia Investigation Senior Asst Comm Mohd Kamarudin Md Din said it busted a syndicate in April which raked in about RM900,000 per month from the sales and services of such devices.

“From our investigations, this particular syndicate was in operation since 2015. This syndicate had about 30,000 customers,” he said when contacted by The Star.

Casbaa also posted on its official website that the takedown of networks operating illicit streaming TV services in Thailand resulted in an estimated 50,000 consumers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Indonesia losing their services as well.

“The criminal syndicates selling illegal streaming devices have defrauded many consumers into believing their services were legitimate,” said Medeiros.

“They are not. And anyone buying an illicit IPTV box takes the risk of losing their money without warning when the illegal network is taken down.”

Casbaa CEO Christopher Slaughter said that consumers need to understand that if the TV programming offered on a box sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not legitimate.

“Money invested in an illegal streaming device is at risk of loss at any time,” he said.

However, vendors are boldly advertising their products and services on several online shopping sites.

A vendor selling illegal satellite TV boxes promises that the device priced at RM230 would give complete access to all available channels here.

“It is safe to use this device as it cannot be traced back to you. The only way the authorities can find out is if you have a jealous neighbour who reports you,” said another dealer who openly sells the devices in Digital Mall.

His booth proudly states “Turn Your Regular TV Into Smart TV Now” and claims to offer over 1,000 “live” channels from all over the world.

Vendors are also selling Android TV boxes that allow users to illegally stream thousands of movies and TV series.

Users can purchase an Android box from between RM159 to RM799, and for an additional RM360 per year, they could also get IPTV content, as well as other live broadcasts.

A dealer at Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur insisted that his products are legal and that the services offered are not against the law which is why ­consumers are tricked into purchasing the devices, not knowing that the content that they are receiving is unauthorised and pirated.

“Why would the police arrest you? You’re just streaming the shows from the Internet. It’s just like using your phone to watch movies on the Internet. You’re not doing anything wrong, right?” he asked.

Bukit Aman has urged the public to refrain from subscribing to direct user satellite TV programming.

Kamarudin said that these syndicates would usually lure customers via social media with lucrative offers.

“People need to know that they can face serious action if they are caught subscribing to these illegal packages. They could face action under Section 41 of The Copyright Act 1987.

“They can also face action under Section 232(b) of the CMA 98 which carries a jail term and maximum RM300,000 fine,” he said.

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