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Study: Piracy sites in India pose malware risk

March 22, 2024

By Colin Mann

A new study commissioned by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) found that piracy websites posed the highest risk for malware infection among consumers in India. The study found that consumers perceived accessing piracy sites as presenting the highest risk of being affected by malware (59 per cent), even more than if they clicked on adult industry advertisements (57 per cent) or gambling ads (53 per cent).

Findings from the study, The Piracy-Malware Nexus in India: A Perceptions and Experience and Empirical Analysis, were unveiled during an anti-piracy seminar, which was held in Mumbai and co-hosted by ACE, the US Patent and Trademark Office and the Indian School of Business (ISB).

The report was authored by Dr. Paul Watters, Adjunct Professor of Cybersecurity at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Professor Manish Gangwar and Shruti Mantri of the ISB in Hyderabad.

“Piracy sites have become a major source for disseminating malware ,” said Brijesh Singh, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and keynote speaker at the seminar.  “When consumers access a piracy site they are not just watching a pirated movie or a TV show. They are compromising their device, and your device is a ‘second you.’ It contains your identity, your banking details, and information on your friends and family.  What has been suspected for many years has now been explained in this report, which I hope is a starting point for change.”

“The research findings align with what ACE has observed over the years — accessing pirated content online puts consumers at great risk of scams and poses a threat to the security of their private data,” added Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel for the Motion Picture Association. “We remain committed to addressing piracy in India and look forward to continued collaboration with the Indian authorities and regional law enforcement.”

The study also found that people aged 18-24 were more likely to access piracy websites but demonstrated the lowest levels of awareness of cyber risk. Malware and phishing were among the cyber risks identified by the study as being associated with piracy websites and services. These risks could lead to identity theft and expose consumers to data breaches, including extraction of data.

“Young people in India are being targeted by cybercriminals, holding out the false promise of free entertainment, while seeking to steal their identities – and their money,” noted Watters. “The study results confirm awareness of the piracy-malware nexus issue, but further resourcing of law enforcement in India to deal specifically with digital piracy is the main way that young people can be protected from egregious malware.”

To help reduce consumer risk and consumption of pirated content, the study called for the Indian government to prioritise action targeting digital crimes in India through training and resources for law enforcement agencies. Such action would help bring offenders to justice and provide a clear and visible deterrent.

“The study’s findings highlight the importance for government and the content industry to make Internet users aware of the very real online risks they face when accessing piracy websites and services,” stated Mantri. “I hope our findings empower the less experienced members of the digital community to make informed decisions and safeguard themselves from risks associated with the Internet.”

The study also recommends targeted training and education campaigns for consumers, especially those within the 18-24 age group, on the dangers of accessing piracy websites and how to reduce risky behaviour online.

Categories: Articles, Business, Consumer Behaviour, Content, Markets, Piracy, Policy, Regulation, Research

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