Today is Safer Internet Day, which is designed as an informative exercise to educate the public about the dangers of the internet and teach them how to be safer online. To commemorate this Industry Trust for IP Awareness, in collaboration with children's charity Into Film, has released a video warning of the dangers of malware.
The only problem with it is that it claims illegal pirate sites are the leading cause of malware infection, with a 97 per cent figure bandied about by the computer virus-like cartoons.
In fact, other than telling people to avoid pirate sites there's no information on how people can stay safe from malware. As we all know, malware of all kinds can spread in many different ways including sneaking through dodgy advertising, through email attachments, or even with a direct attack that exploits flaws in software. Naturally it's being assumed that the video has an ulterior motive, and is trying to scare people away from piracy - much like the anti piracy ad that implied the Raspberry Pi was a piracy-enabling tool.
TorrentFreak was kind enough to do some digging, and found that this 97 per cent figure wasn't just pulled out of thin air, though. According to Industry Trust for IP Awareness it comes from a paper released in 2014, which claims "illegal streaming websites are now the number one propagation mechanism for malicious software as 97% of them contain malware.” However, TorrentFreak points out that this claim has a lot of problems.
It's worth heading over to see everything TorrentFreak found in more detail, but the basics are that said paper cited a different paper claiming 90 per cent of pirate sites had malware of some kind (not 97 per cent) - though the majority came from pop-ups rather than the sites themselves. Similarly that malware wasn't automatically installed, and required the user to perform an action before it could infect their system.
Interestingly that same second paper also claimed 80 per cent of malware came from compromised 'innocent' sites. So someone either didn't read the paper properly, or was cherry picking data to match a pre-existing conclusion.
Meanwhile Adam Kujawa, Director of Malware Intelligence at Malwarebytes said the following:
"These days, most common infections come from malicious spam campaigns and drive-by exploit attacks. Torrent sites are still frequently used by criminals to host malware disguised as something the user wants, like an application, movie, etc. However they are really only a threat to people who use torrent sites regularly and those people have likely learned how to avoid malicious torrents.
Now, if users who were not familiar with torrent and pirate sites started using these services, there is a high probability that they could encounter some kind of malware. However, many of these sites have user review processes to let other users know if a particular torrent or download is likely malicious.
So, unless a user is completely new to this process and ignores all the warning signs, they could walk away from a pirate site without getting infected."
So basically the video seems to be used bullshit and made up stats to push a specific agenda under the guise of something else. Whether it was intentional or not isn't the point. There's nothing wrong with educating people about the dangers they may face when using pirate sites, particularly those that are less well known and reputable, but for god's sake be accurate about it.
And at the very least include some other information that helps people protect themselves from the horrible people who may try to exploit their ignorance. [TorrentFreak]