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Study: Online piracy increases malware risk

March 23, 2018

By Colin Mann

An academic study has found that computer users visiting content infringing sites are at a greater risk of contracting malware on their machines.

According to Rahul Telang, Professor of Information Systems and Management at Carnegie Mellon University – H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, it was apparent that users who are infringing are also users who generally spend a lot more time on the Internet. People who infringe spent about 97 minutes a month on infringing sites and more than 1800 minutes (30 hours) a month of total time on Internet.

People who do not infringe spend significant less time on the Internet, 559 minutes (approximately 10 hours). Users who infringe are spending more time on most other activities as well (social network, TV shows and even adult websites). They also download more movies and download more in general.

Using a panel data of more than 250 users for over a year, the study, Does Online Piracy Make Computers Insecure? Evidence from Panel Data, examined the relation between user visits to content infringing sites and the number of malware found on their machines. It found that doubling the time spent on infringing sites leads to 20 per cent increase the count of malware found on user machines.

The data allowed separation of malware into adware and more malicious malware such as Trojans, Virus and so on. Researchers also found no evidence that users who visit infringing sites more take more precautions. In particular, users visiting infringing sites were less (not more) likely to install an antivirus (AV) software.

“It is clear from these results that visits to infringing sites leads to an increase in number of total malware files on users’ machines and this result is both economically and statistically significantly,” says Telang.


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