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More Than 1 Million Illegal Set-Top Boxes Sold in U.K.

19 Sep, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

More than 1 million set-top boxes with add-ons that enable consumers to stream content illegally have been sold in the United Kingdom in the past two years, according to new data from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), an intellectual property protection organization specializing in both physical and digital content.

The report said parties behind digital piracy make their money from advertising; typically banner ads or pop-up windows for casinos or dating sites, sometimes exposing children to inappropriate content.

Other moneymaking scams include subscription fees to access paid-for channels; putting malware on sites and hijacking users’ computers. Monetary damages exceed hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

“A quarter of Brits access digital material illegally, and often don’t realize the risks associated for them and their families,” Kieron Sharp, director general at FACT, said in a statement.

Sharp said online pirates are not “Robin Hood” characters, but instead represent criminals attempting to make money through illicit means.

“As a result, the risks are high — inappropriate advertising that could be seen by young children, electrical safety associated with counterfeit parts, and financial cyber crime,” he said.

The organization said there are also several trends emerging consumers need to be aware of, including availability of illegal add-ons to Kodi software that has helped gangs reach a wider audience due to no parental controls or security standards.

Most streaming now happens through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, helping the criminals attract more viewers and put more users at risk of malware or security issues.

More criminal gangs are using the dark web — hidden from the mainstream Internet — to sell illicit information, such as the illegal software used to modify set-top boxes or the customer data they’ve acquired through malware.

Criminals selling illicit streaming devices are moving their business online, advertising on social media platforms and e-commerce sites.

“While it may be tempting for people to think they are getting a bargain when streaming illegally, it’s important to remember that there are organized criminals behind it, often associated with other serious crimes,” said DCI Pete Ratcliffe, head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) of the London police. “Pirating content is not a petty crime; from release groups, to site operators to set-top box wholesalers and distributers, there is an international criminal business model.”

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