Your next Game of Thrones download can be a malware – Here’s why

Game of Thrones the most Exploited Series by Hackers and Scammers in 2018- Research reveals.

Cybercriminals never miss out on an opportunity to exploit any potentially fruitful event and now that the final season of Game of Thrones is about to be released, they are trying to use it for achieving their malicious objectives.

Although there has always been a love-hate relationship between the Game of Thrones series and hackers as every year there is one controversy or another involving the world famous HBO original show. But, researchers at Kaspersky Lab specifically studied the way hackers scammed users last year, despite that in 2018 new season of the show wasn’t released.

According to the findings of Kaspersky Labs, in 2018 hackers targeted those online users who tuned into the show via the internet due to not having access to HBO. Finding it as the perfect opportunity to scam unsuspecting users, hackers lured victims into downloading malware believing that they are downloading the latest episodes of the series. Reportedly, the infected versions of the episodes accounted for 17% of all the infected pirated content last year.

Game of Thrones malware downloaded on a system.

Moreover, researchers were quite taken aback by the sheer versatility of the malware tools hackers used to scam users. In total, they found 33 new types of malware and over 500 unique families of threats being used inside the Game of Thrones episode bundles.

Approximately, 21,000 machine infections were successful out of the 130,000 attempts launched by cybercriminals during 2018. There are two other shows that managed to scam such a large number of users, namely “The Walking Dead” and “Arrow”. The list goes on to add “Vikings”, “Daredevil”, “Better Call Saul”, and “Doctor Who”, etc.

Kaspersky Labs further observed that nearly 126,320 users ended up downloading the malware instead of the GoT episodes while the first episode Winter is Coming is the most exploited one out of all the episodes of the series. Two users suffered 7 attacks as every episode file that they downloaded was infected with malware.

Others TV shows targeted in a malware campaign.

Trojan malware was used in roughly 33% of the infected episode files of Game of Thrones whereas AdWare was found in 28% of the infected files and payload downloader was detected in 21% of them. The downloader could infect and exploit the system without any interference from the user while the adware could be used by the attackers to display unsolicited ads and manipulate browser search results to collect exclusive information for displaying targeted ads.

In a majority of the cases, the Trojan was distributed through emails containing a file that posed as an episode of GoT but actually being a shortcut to the malicious executable.

The researchers also noted that malware distributors are now excessively focusing on streaming websites instead of file-hosting and torrent sites at a time when stricter policies to safeguard intellectual property are being formulated across the globe.

To stay protected from the malicious activities of cybercriminals this year, it is recommended that Game of Thrones fans avoid downloading pirated episodes from torrent sites and always use authentic streaming sites. Also, it is important to pay attention to the extension of the file; if there is a video format extension then it will be a video file and if there is a .exe extension, it will be an executable, which you shouldn’t run.

Lastly, don’t pay heed to the lucrative episode leaks, a tactic that hackers frequently use to lure fans into downloading malware believing that they will get to watch the new episode even before it is officially released.

It is noteworthy that the Pirate Bay was found dropping malware on devices belonging to users looking for their favorite movie or TV show. In fact, one torrent uploader going by the handle of CracksNow was caught distributing GrandCrab ransomware on torrent sites including 1337x, GIoTorrents, PirateBay, Demonoid, and TorrentGalaxy.

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