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2020 Press Releases

February 11, 2020

Cybercriminals use Oscar Nominated Films to Spread Malware

Popular films gain the attention of cybercriminals, no less than movie fans, with the Oscars in the calendar only upping the stakes. In order to better understand how cybercriminals try to capitalise on our interest in high-profile movies, Kaspersky researchers highlights popularity of such scams. There were over 20 phishing websites and 925 malicious files detected under the appearance of this year’s nominated films, the findings show that those who are looking the latest blockbuster, need to stay on the lookout for much more action, in the form of phishing and malware.

There were over 20 phishing websites and Twitter accounts offering users the chance to watch nominated films for free, according to Kaspersky. These phishing websites gather users’ data and have them carry out different tasks to gain access to the desired film. These can vary from taking a survey and sharing personal details, to installing adware or even giving up credit card details. Basically at the end of the process, the user does not get the content. 

Cybercriminals also set up Twitter accounts, where they distribute links to the content to further support the promotion of fraudulent websites. With malicious files spread via different channels, this brings them successful results.

Malicious files spread on the internet under the appearance of copies of nominated films also indicates the levels of interest towards the nominees. During the first four weeks after the public premiere of the film, Kaspersky researchers compared malicious activity under the name of nominated films. As a result, ‘Joker’ took first place among films to be the most popular film among cybercriminals with 304 malicious files named after the Gotham villain. ‘1917’ was second in this rating with 215 malicious files, The Irishman, third with 179 files. Korean film ‘Parasite’, on the other hand, did not have any malicious activity associated with it.

Kaspersky also did a research whether there was a significant rise in malicious files just after the public release of the film. This showed that most malicious files appeared during the third or fourth week after the public cinema release of the film, although some were distributed even before the premiere.

By comparing malicious activity after the initial limited cinema release and actual release on Netflix streaming platform, Kaspersky experts also analysed whether the availability of a film on a streaming platform influences the likelihood of users searching for an illegal copy of it on the web.

No malware was found upon and after the initial release of the film in cinemas for ‘Marriage Story’. However, after its release on Netflix, cybercriminals started using the movie title reflecting the interest that grew towards the film. In the case of Sorrento’s long-awaited ‘The Irishmen’, even though less users were engaged in finding a copy of the movie on the internet, they were more determined to do so – the number of detections following the initial limited release of the film on screen was higher than after its release on Netflix.

“Cybercriminals aren’t exactly tied to the dates of film premieres, as they are not really distributing any content except for malicious data. However, as they always prey on something when it becomes a hot trend, they depend on users’ demand and actual file availability. To avoid being tricked by criminals, stick to legal streaming platforms and subscriptions to ensure you can enjoy a nice evening in front of the TV without having to worry about any threats,” comments Anton Ivanov, Kaspersky malware analyst.

To avoid falling victim to malicious programs pretending to be popular films or TV shows, Kaspersky recommends taking the following steps:

  • Pay attention to the official movie release dates in theaters, on streaming services, TV, DVD, or other sources

  • Don’t click on suspicious links, such as those promising an early view of a new film; check movie release dates in the cinema and keep track of them

  • Look at the downloaded file extension. Even if you are going to download a video file from a source you consider trusted and legitimate, the file should have an .avi, .mkv or .mp4 extension among other video formats, definitely not .exe

  • Check the website’s authenticity. Do not visit websites allowing you to watch a movie until you are sure that they are legitimate and start with ‘https’. Confirm that the website is genuine, by double-checking the format of the URL or the spelling of the company name, reading reviews about it and checking the domain’s registration data before starting downloads

  • Use a reliable security solution, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud, for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats