Monday 25 September 2023

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One person every 90 seconds was willing to visit an unknown website and hand over their personal details to access a deal too good to be true, free streaming for life. 

BeStreamWise, a new initiative raising awareness of the dangers of illegal streaming, set up ‘MalStreams’, a spoof brand designed to imitate illegal streaming services, and offered commuters at Paddington Station unlimited free access to TV, film and sports content. 

In a bid to highlight the very real personal risks of illegal streaming, BeStreamWise enlisted the help of Social Engineer and People Hacker, Jenny Radcliffe, who invited passersby to register for the service by accessing an unknown link from their personal device and agreeing to submit a number of personal details. This included their name, home address, household information and financial details. 

Often ignoring the terms and conditions (T&Cs) and small print, which can feature clues to a services’ legitimacy, participants were then 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.

These unofficial services are increasingly 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. 

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*.

Speaking on the dangers of illegal streamingJenny Radcliffe, Social Engineer and People Hacker said: “The perception that illegal streaming is a victimless crime is completely inaccurate. The sites that host these services are loaded with malicious links, back doors and tricks to access people’s digital and financial information, giving professional criminals an open invitation to steal from anyone who engages in these activities. 

Whether it's multiple charges to credit cards, installing malware on devices, accessing bank accounts, or stealing personal information such as emails, messages, contacts, photographs, documents and browsing history, engaging in illegal streaming makes you a prime target for professional fraudsters. And what is worse, because these activities are illegal, victims may have little or no recourse for recovering their losses and may even face criminal charges themselves.”

Providing tips on how to stay safe when streaming content, and Social Engineer and People Hacker Jenny Radcliffe recommends:

  1. Beware of online pop-up ads and ads for streaming services online. Verify their legitimacy independently by researching the brand. A simple way to do this is by searching the provider's name alongside "SCAM" to uncover information. If it is a scam you may well find feedback about this online.
  2. Never share personal or financial details online or elsewhere unless you are certain you are dealing with a legitimate brand. Be suspicious of adverts that use urgency or other pressure tactics to get you to buy or subscribe. Don't act in the heat of the moment. It is always best to verify their official website or with their customer service before acting.
  3. Use unique strong passwords with numbers and special characters for all your accounts. Never reuse your password for more than one site and use a password manager if possible. Enabling MFA (multi-factor authentication) allows for another layer of security whenever someone tries to log in to your accounts.
  4. Check your bank statements regularly. Notify your bank if you see anything suspicious or unexpected on your account.
  5. Remember that scams come in all shapes and sizes. You can be contacted via phone, text, email or through social media DMs. Scammers will ask the victim to give something whether that’s money, information or even to click on links or open attachments. You should be suspicious and double-check before sending money or information, especially if you feel emotional or time pressure to do so.

Formed in partnership with key bodies across the sports, film, and TV industry – including FACT, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Crimestoppers, British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), Sky, Premier League, and ITV – BeStreamWise seeks to help viewers consider the personal risks of streaming illegally and identify safer options to enjoy their favourite content. Launching this week, allows audiences to learn the facts, read the latest news and most importantly, find legal routes to safely stream their favourite content.

Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT, said: “FACT have always been committed to protecting the rights of content creators and ensuring online safety. BeStreamWise is an essential educational platform focused on raising awareness about the dangers of illegal streaming and we are proud to be a partner of this important industry initiative.

The Intellectual Property Office’s Deputy Director of IP Enforcement Miles Rees said:
Creative industries support around 2 million UK jobs and contribute tens of billions to our economy every year.  Piracy diverts funds away from these industries and into the hands of criminals, at the expense of the TV shows, films and sporting events we all enjoy.  Pirated content is often linked to other harmful content and activity online, undermining consumer confidence and helping to sustain serious and organised crime. 

“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. 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”.

Sylvia DickHead of Audience Engagement at British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), said: "We are proud to support the BeStreamWise initiative to raise awareness about the risks of illegal streaming—a cause that BASE has long championed. Our research has shown that those who view films, TV shows or sports fixtures through illegal streams increasingly report serious repercussions such as viruses, scams, and personal data breaches. Criminals and criminal groups offering users access to illegal streams are putting them at risk of having their bank accounts emptied or valuable personal info stolen. Our key goal is to support keeping audiences safe when watching the films, TV shows and sports they love while educating them on the potential risks surrounding illegal streaming."

Matt Hibbert, Director of Anti-Piracy, UK and ROI, at Sky, said“We’re proud to support the launch of alongside our industry peers. We’re seeing more and more evidence of links between those involved in operating illegal streaming services and organised crime, and this initiative aims to increase public awareness of the risks of piracy, empowering audiences to safeguard themselves while enjoying the content they love.”

Sarah Tierney, Director of Distribution - New Platforms, ITV, said"Many consumers are unaware of the personal risks that illegal streaming exposes them to. ITV is proud to be working with BeStreamWise on this new campaign to bring to life, and help raise awareness of, the dangers of content piracy."

BeStreamWise is appealing to further industry bodies to join the initiative and increase consumer awareness of the consequences of illegal streaming.  

If you require further information on BeStreamWise or are looking to become a partner, please do not hesitate to contact us.