Malicious executable files can easily be bound to video files and Game of Thrones is a firm favourite for hackers
Game of Thrones is the most popular TV show target for malware distribution, according to new research from Kaspersky Lab, with VPN provider BestVPN.com identifying over 170,000 infection attempts via illicit Game of Thrones streams over the past 12 months, stemming from 30,217 infected files.
The findings come as data reveals the extent to which hackers are targeting popular TV shows in order to spread malicious software, with torrenting and illicit streaming sites, perhaps unsurprisingly, found to be particularly effective delivery mechanisms.
Game of Thrones Malware: Stranger Things Have Happened
The Walking Dead was a close second in terms of infections (the research partners did not specify malware type), with Stranger Things a distant third: BestVPN.com spotted 14,854 infected Walking Dead files that resulted in 100,000 infection attempts detected on nearly 20,000 computers around the world.
“These are exciting times for television fans,” commented Sean McGrath, editor of BestVPN.com. “Streaming services have shaken things up and we are living through a new golden age of TV programming. But our love of television and desire to get things instantly makes us easy targets for those who wish to do us harm. Malicious executable files can easily be binded [sic] to video files, which means all a user needs to do is start watching a video and their computer could be infected. That’s why it’s vital to run quality antivirus software, regardless of platform or operating system.”
USB Sticks: Still a Handy Way to Distribute Malware
USB sticks as well as illicit video streams remain, despite growing recognition that you shouldn’t stick any old flash drive into your system, a notable threat vector, Kaspersky also found – even without any Game of Thrones bait.
In 2016, researchers from the University of Illinois left 297 unlabelled USB flash drives around the university campus to see what would happen; 98 percent of the dropped drives were picked up by staff and students, and at least half were plugged into a computer in order to view the content.
As Kaspersky puts it: “For a hacker trying to infect a computer network, those are pretty irresistible odds.”
The Russian cybersecurity company, noting that the numbers infected by this route are far outweighed by web-borne malware, said the top malware spread via removable media has stayed relatively consistent since at least 2016.
“For example, the family of Windows LNK malware, Trojans containing links for downloading malicious files or paths for launching a malicious executable, has remained among the top three threats spread by removable media. This malware is used by attackers to destroy, block, modify or copy data, or to disrupt the operation of a device or its network. The WinLNK Runner Trojan, which was the top detected USB threat in 2017, is used in worms for launching executable files.”