Piracy surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Internet piracy authority Muso and South African ISPs.
The manner in which illegal content is consumed and accessed has evolved, however, with a major move towards streaming instead of downloads.
Muso data showed that there were significant increases in film and TV piracy once the global lockdown first began, with global film piracy increasing by over 33% when comparing the last 7 days of March to the last 7 days of April. In the US, this figure rose to 41%, while the UK saw a 43% increase in piracy.
Muso noted that it had tracked over 174 billion visits to piracy sites – but this was likely to be usurped by a significant margin in 2020.
“Piracy activity was already high, but early data indicates it may well become considerably higher,” said Muso.
MyBroadband spoke to local ISPs, who said that there has been a spike in piracy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
South African pirates move to online streaming
Vox told MyBroadband that it has seen a significant increase in pirated content.
“Unfortunately, there is still a huge amount of illegal pirated activity from our customers,” noted Head of Security Niel van Rooyen.
However, he explained that the nature of piracy has changed in South Africa, with local pirates adapting their consumption habits.
“Recent years show that its not so much ‘Pirated Video Downloads or Torrents’ any longer, but rather the problem lies with illegal online streaming,” said van Rooyen.
He also said that studies have shown that the amount of piracy is increasing by approximately 80% and that fighting this often feels like it is impossible.
“Vox has relevant monitoring and processes in place to detect and respond but unfortunately, with these illegal entities always one step ahead, it’s like fighting a losing battle,” said van Rooyen.
“No sooner has one site been taken down, as another one pops up. It’s a huge challenge.”
RSAWEB said that, on a more positive note, traffic to uTorrent has reduced by 60% – 80%.
“Our data indicates that customers on higher bandwidth links are less likely to pirate movies and series,” added RSAWEB.
The ISP also noted that it has a dedicated email address for piracy and abuse, which users can use to report any such actions – [email protected].
The risks of online piracy
In April, Microsoft warned users that there had been a significant increase in malware and ransomware being embedded into illegal media content.
“With lockdown still in place in many parts of the world, attackers are paying attention to the increase in the use of pirate streaming services and torrent downloads,” Microsoft Security Intelligence warned on Twitter.
“We saw an active coin miner campaign that inserts a malicious VBScript into ZIP files posing as movie downloads.”
“The use of torrent downloads is consistent with our observation that attackers are repurposing old techniques to take advantage of the current crisis,” the company added.