Hackers hiding malware in ‘Games of Thrones’ latest episodes, reports security firm

Cybercriminals using latest ‘Games of Thrones’ season to distribute malware

The final season of the hugely popular fantasy series, Games of Thrones (GoT) is set to premiere on April 14. Fans of Games of Thrones have been eagerly waiting for the eight-episode eighth season of the series to be aired on the entertainment channel, HBO.

In the eagerness to catch the latest episodes, many fans turn to other methods of digital distribution like torrents and illegal online streaming for downloading recent Games of Thrones series. Apparently, cybercriminals are using this opportunity to disguise malware inside torrents and spread onto computers of such users, claims security firm Kaspersky.

According to a recent report from security firm Kaspersky, cybercriminals are using the latest episodes of Game of Thrones as bait to target unsuspecting users. They are even targeting users with other popular TV shows like The Walking Dead and Arrow, reports Kaspersky.

“In many regions, unlike legitimate resources, torrent trackers and hosted files may send a user a file that looks like an episode of a TV show, but is in fact malware with a similar name,” Kaspersky Labs said in its ‘Game of Threats: How cybercriminals use popular TV shows to spread malware’ report.

Even though no new episodes of Games of Thrones was released in 2018, it still accounted for 17% of all the infected pirated content in 2018, with 20,934 attacked users. It was followed by other popular TV shows like The Walking Dead, with 18,794, and Arrow, with 12,163, with the greatest number of infected users.

“This is despite the fact that in 2018, there were no new episodes of Game of Thrones released, while the other shows in the ranking were accompanied by high profile promotional campaigns,” Kaspersky said.

The firm also found that malware distributors opted for the first and the last episodes of each Game of Thrones season, as viewership is usually higher in these episodes.

For those unaware, the premiere episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 was illegally downloaded and streamed more than 120 million times in under 72 hours.

“The first and last episodes are likely to be at greatest risk of malicious spoofing. Online fraudsters tend to exploit people’s loyalty and impatience, so may promise brand new material for download that is, in fact, a cyberthreat,” Anton V. Ivanov, Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement. “Keeping in mind that the final season of Game of Thrones starts this month, we would like to warn users that it is highly likely there will be a spike in the amount of malware disguised as new episodes of this show.”

Within two years, Kaspersky found 33 types and 505 different families of threats hiding behind the Game of Thrones title. For each malware file disguised as a TV show, on an average 2.23 users were attacked seven times.

However, a comparison between the results for years 2017 and 2018, has shown a decrease in the numbers of such malware files, attacks, illegal downloads, and affected users, as many users are opting for popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu to watch their favorite TV series. The downloading of illegal torrents for TV series in 2018 has decreased by one third from the previous year.

We suggest our users to legally watch the latest season of Game of Thrones by subscribing to HBO or Hotstar (if you are in India) to enjoy a hack-free experience.

Source: Kaspersky

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