Game of Thrones Blue Sky

As the final season of Game of Thrones approaches, fans need to be careful where they get their Jon Snow fix.

Hackers are disguising viruses as illegal downloads ahead of the show’s highly anticipated premier, which airs on April 14. In 2018, Game of Thrones accounted for 17 percent of all the infected pirated content with 20,934 users attacked. This is despite not having any new episodes released that year.

If the trend continues, it is expected that several thousands of people will pirate the episodes to avoid buying an HBO subscription. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of this opportunity to scam viewers.

How does it happen?

When pirating Game of Thrones, the biggest concern is Trojans. Trojans account for almost one third of all threats. The user downloads a torrent file and receives an archive with a shortcut via email. Excited to watch the episode, the user clicks on the link. In addition to the shortcut, the link also contains a hidden folder with malware. The malware allows hackers to display messages, execute commands, shutdown and restart the computer, go to specified URLs, and basically wreak havoc on the computer.

Pirating Game of Thrones may also lead to adware, more commonly known as pop-ups. Ads may start popping up in applications where you hadn't seen them before. They can even show up on your desktop when you're not browsing the Internet. Adware isn't necessarily considered a virus, however it may be a nuisance and slow down your device. Users often get adware by downloading what they think is a media file but is really an executable (.exe) file.

Additional Facts and Statistics:
  • The first and last episodes of each GOT season accounted for the greatest number of malicious files.
  • The very first episode, “Winter is Coming” was the most commonly used by cyber criminals.
  • Game of Thrones is among the top three TV shows most often used as bait for malware (The Walking Dead and Arrow come in second and third respectively).
  • Every TV show malware file has infected an average of 2.23 users in 2018.
  • As many as 126,340 internet users were affected by malware in 2018.

Bottom line: don’t download shows (or anything) illegally. You’ll likely get malware. The money you saved by not paying for an HBO subscription, will be spent trying to fix your computer. Instead, just pay for HBO, find a restaurant or brewery that shows it weekly, or find a friend with a subscription and watch it together.