Check it before you click it — protecting digital content while protecting yourself

When it comes to Internet security, most users inherently understand that in today’s world you need to be protected when connected. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a friend or family member whose computer has come to a near screeching halt after being infected with malicious malware or a virus. Not only do they have trouble cleaning and restoring their computer, but they often never figure out how they got infected in the first place – except perhaps that inkling that they may have visited a site or clicked on something they know they shouldn’t have.

A new study sheds shine some light on one of the ways consumers may be unwittingly exposing themselves to unwanted malware.

A recent report from the cybersecurity firm RiskIQ found that one in three websites set up to distribute pirated movies and TV shows spread malicious malware. RiskIQ sampled 800 piracy websites and found that the malware on these sites can infect computers and potentially expose a user to identity theft, financial loss, and enable hackers to take  control of their computer. Internet users were 28 times more likely to get malware from so-called torrent sites than from licensed or mainstream media websites. Almost half the time, the malware was delivered by “drive-by downloads,” meaning the malicious software was triggered just by visiting a site without the user even having to click on a link or download a file. It’s no secret that today’s hackers have a business plan. In some cases, clever hackers working around the clock and around the globe may be offering up pirated content as digital bait for getting access to your computer and private financial data.

Fortunately, there are some simple common-sense steps consumers can take to avoid being infected like using trusted virus scanning software, keeping software up to date, avoiding torrent and other risky websites, and understanding the risks of misusing peer to peer file sharing networks. For example OnGuardOnline.gov — the federal government’s website designed to help you be safe, secure and responsible online —  offers consumer tips for avoiding P2P file sharing risks. [https://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0016-p2p-file-sharing-risks]

In addition, CCI recently created two videos to help consumer avoid risks and better control what happens on their network  including how to secure your home Wi-Fi connection to prevent unauthorized access to your network; and how to remove P2P programs from your computer and prevent the passive sharing of information without your knowledge.

Because P2P programs are designed to share files, they do so easily and constantly, and they may automatically or “passively” share files in folders and sub-folders consumers intended to keep private. This new RiskIQ report provides added confirmation that consumers need to be aware of the file-sharing risks that may enable them to mistakenly download copyrighted work or malware that can undermine their privacy or harm their computer. It’s one more reason why being smart online doesn’t just involve protecting creative content, it also means protecting yourself  from the hackers and malicious malware that too often lurk on file sharing sites.

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