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Video streaming sites are malware breeding grounds

People using free live streaming websites to watch popular events unavailable on TV, such as sports events, are actually exposing their devices to malware, as 50 per cent of video overlay ads are proven to be malicious.

Those are the results of a new and fairly extensive research into the matter, conducted by Belgians from iMinds - KU Leuven (opens in new tab), and Stony Brook University, USA.

So if you’re among those people streaming the Champions League, thinking you’re watching it for free, you’re actually paying for it, just not in ‘real’ money: And the quality is not even that good.

The researchers scanned more than 23,000 websites offering live streaming, corresponding to more than 5,600 domain names (more of 20 per cent are in Alexa’s top 100,000). They performed more than 850,000 visits to those sites, and analysed more than a terabyte of resulting traffic.

What these sites basically do is cover the video streaming with ads, and almost as a rule, place fake ‘close’ buttons on the ads. That way, people using the site are basically forced to click the link, often leading to a site filled with malware.

“Still, the outcome of our research – the first one to really quantify this threat – has been pretty confronting: next to the notable occurrence of copyright and trademark infringements, we found that in 50 per cent of the cases a click on a FLIS overlay ad leads users to a malware-hosting webpage. We also found that the majority of the malware-hosting pages were constructed to imitate the look-and-feel of the actual FLIS services. As such, they try to deceive users and have them install malware by pretending they need special software to watch the live video stream,” says M. Zubair Rafique KU Leuven Department of Computer Science and iMinds).

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Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.