Experts warn that downloading episodes of 'Game of Thrones' could be very dangerous
Game of Thrones' final season is just around the corner, which means millions of fans are getting ready to tune in when it airs on April 14. At the same time, there will be a large number of people who don't own the relevant subscription or cable package, so will be looking for a way to watch it elsewhere.
Torrents aren't quite as popular as they were some years back, but they are still used by many to download movies, television shows and more. However, experts have warned that those using torrents to watch Game of Thrones may put users in danger of downloading malware.
More so than usual, fans of the show will be the targets of cyber criminals looking to disguise malware to look like torrents, tricking Game of Thrones fans into downloading harmful software to their computers in their search for the new episodes.
According to a new report from cyber security company Kaspersky, Game of Thrones accounted for 17 percent of all infected pirated content in 2018. It was the most popular show to be exploited in this way, alongside The Walking Dead and Arrow - despite no episodes being released that year. Now that the premiere is coming up, Kaspersky say that the risk is even greater.
"The first and the last episodes of each Game of Thrones season we analysed turned out the most dangerous, accounting for the greatest number of malicious files in Kaspersky Lab’s collection and affecting the most users," their research revealed, adding that the show's very first episode was the most popular to be targeted.
Here's a look at the trailer for the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones:
The most common type of cyber attack is a Trojan, software which installs itself on the users' computer and gives the attacker control over the device. Sometimes, the computer's owner won't even realise that they have access.
According to Kaspersky's research, 20,934 users downloaded malware under the guise of Game of Thrones, and were infected 129,819 times. "This makes the show an unmatched leader in popularity not just among users but also among cybercriminals looking for the most effective way to distribute malware," they wrote.
"A year before, in 2017, the wave of Fire and Ice-themed malware was even bigger with almost twice as many users affected and malware files: 42,330 and 19,180, respectively. The number of attacks in 2017 exceeds the 2018 figure by 22% with 167,691 detects."
Despite the dangers this presents, the prevalence of malware downloaded through TV torrents has actually been in decline over the years. Last year, the total number of users who encountered malicious software was a third of 2017's number, while successful cyber attacks dropped by 22 per cent.
This may be due to a reduction in the number of security threats, or linked to the drop in users who actually use torrents.
Kaspersky's advice for those wishing to avoid these threats is to pay close attention to website authenticity, double-check company and website names in the URL, and verify that the files you download have the correct extension. A supposed video file that ends in .exe, for instance, is not what you want to be downloading.
Or... alternatively, you could just watch the show legally when it comes out, and not take the risk.