May the force be with you this Christmas


    - by Stuart Fuller -

    Undoubtedly the biggest film of the Christmas period will be the latest instalment in the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, that hit the cinemas at the weekend. Whilst the film is brand new, the nature of the digital revolution is that somewhere, someone will have a copy of the movie already and will look to “monetise” it, by selling access to illegally stream the film. Whilst stories of digital piracy have disappeared from the headlines, it is still a major concern for distributors.

    Cyber criminals know that the release of the film will drive people into the darkest corners of the Internet, wanting to get their hands on a free copy of the movie. But those who seek to illegally access it may end up with more than they bargain for.

    Researchers at cyber security firm Kaspersky have already seen malicious files, packed with malware, disguised as copies of the film. So far in 2019, the firm has detected over 285,000 attempts to deliver malware based on downloads of Star Wars related files. It is all too easy for the cyber criminals to build their web of dark matter.

    Domain names featuring the film name and words such as “download”, “stream” and “watch free” are registered and websites built that include verification steps that are designed to capture personal and financial information before the infected files can be downloaded. A simple search online for the film and the word “free” brings up six results on the first page alone that offer the opportunity to stream it for free. Using Verisign’s Domainscope tool you can clearly see the number of domain names registered daily in the .com and .net zone using the keywords from the film (including the impressively long!).

    This isn’t unique to Star Wars. Free downloads for Cats, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4 and even the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, not due for release until April all appear within search results. The return on investment for these nefarious websites is incredibly small and whilst there still is a demand to access the copyrighted content for free, the bad actors will continue to attempt to wreak havoc.

    Whilst the intellectual property owners will play their part in trying to remove any content, or access to it, when they discover it but unfortunately due to the immediate nature of consumption of digital material, the damage can be done before they are able to act. The most effective strategy is education - trying to explain the impact of digital piracy has on the economy as well as the on individuals personally. Despite what people may think, digital piracy is not a victimless crime.

    Not only private persons should be beware of cyber criminals, also trademark owners need special protection on the net, so contact our experts in time.