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Tens of thousands of consumers of illegal TV services in Asia have lost their connections in recent weeks, as enforcement action against networks operating through illicit streaming devices (ISDs) picks up speed. Asian regional pay-TV association CASBAA has applauded recent police actions in Thailand and Malaysia, which resulted in takedowns and arrests of operators of ISD networks.
“The criminal syndicates selling ISDs have defrauded many consumers into believing their services were legitimate,” said CASBAA Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros. “They are not. And anyone buying an illicit IPTV box takes the risk of losing their money without warning when the network is taken down.”
After the Thai raids, an estimated 50,000 consumers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia and other places all lost service, despite having pre-paid substantial amounts for ‘Expat.tv’ services. The enforcement action that shut down the service led to the arrest of two British nationals and one Thai citizen, as well as the seizure of a considerable amount of equipment.
In Malaysia, police estimated that 30,000 consumers were receiving service from a syndicate illegally retransmitting programming from Astro channels. Six men were arrested in raids in Kuala Lumpur and Johor.
CASBAA CEO Christopher Slaughter said the TV industry – including creators of all genres of TV content as well as leading distribution companies such as Astro, PCCW, and True Visions – are determined to keep up enforcement actions against ISD networks. “It’s important for consumers to understand that if a bouquet of TV programming offered on a box seems “too good to be true”, then it probably is not legitimate,” he said. “Money invested in an ISD is at risk of loss at any time.”
Consumers also risked infection with malware when they attach ISDs, with their dodgy apps, to home networks, warned Medeiros. “Researchers in the UK have found ISD boxes importing viruses that could allow hackers access to all devices on home networks. This could result in the theft of personal data, credit card fraud or even being held to ransom. It’s only a matter of time before this problem hits consumers in Asia, too.”
“Legitimate, licensed TV services are a far more reliable and more secure way to obtain programming,” he advised.