10 ways to avoid malware while streaming videos online

Jorge Felix Last updated: December 27, 2022 Read time: 15 minutes Disclosure

Free video streaming websites pose various security, privacy, and anonymity threats for unsuspecting users. Staying safe requires awareness and the adoption of a few prudential measures. This article explains it all.

Sneak peek at avoiding malware threats while streaming content online

Video streaming services and websites have revolutionized how we watch audiovisual content, similar to how mp3 files changed music forever. However, some security risks are associated with video streams, mainly from accessible and illegal sources. Join us as we explain all the risks and how to neutralize them.

The internet became a mainstream tool in the 90s. Since then, it’s disrupted many global industries introducing new possibilities for doing old things. For example, email was the internet’s first killer app, thus removing much friction and costs from worldwide communications.

Since then, the internet has kept evolving and moving forward. Today it’s available on every mobile device in the market at high speeds that were impossible only a few years ago. As a result, more and more activities have been affected by the internet’s evolution.

That brings us to entertainment.

Commercial internet speeds kept increasing, so they became suitable for high-definition video streams. Thus, it became unavoidable that the film and TV industries would have to find ways to accommodate the demand for their product through the internet.

And then, the Covid-19 global pandemic came to the world. As people all over the planet found themselves locked at home, the demand for internet video exploded. If the online video streaming industry was in the making, the pandemic gave it steroids. 

Some estimations put at six out of every ten the number of users in the younger demographic whose main internet activity is streaming movies and TV shows. It’s a global trend, and it’s easy to understand. In many cases, watching films and TV shows on your tablet, phone or computer is convenient, easy, and free of charge.

And convenience is the game’s name in many of the new relative ways of doing old things the internet has given us. Unfortunately, however, convenience comes at a price. More often than not, convenience and security conflict with each other, and you cannot have much of both at the same time, unfortunately. Video streaming is no exception to this, especially when it comes to free video websites and apps.

And if young users love all the content they can get from video streaming websites and services. But, unfortunately, hackers enjoy those things every bit as much. So these virtual places are great options for them to apply their craft to steal personal information. Think about the user database of any popular video streaming service. It includes millions of avid users’ names, emails, and payment details. It is no theoretical scenario either. Disney+ had a security breach only hours after its launch. It left thousands of users vulnerable. 

So, as happens with every new technology that becomes popular in the mainstream, the new horizons it opens for users bring along new security challenges that are not so visible at the beginning. Nevertheless, they are there. 

Cybersecurity and video streaming

The video streaming market is particular in that it has legal and illegal branches. Many of the world’s most popular video sites are free of charge. It is possible because the content they provide is pirated, and they don’t honor distribution agreements with copyright owners. The advantage for users doesn’t stop with the cost but availability, as these platforms can offer the same broad catalog everywhere.

On the other hand, you have legal video streaming services such as Netflix. Doing business legally means they have to negotiate distribution agreements with the copyright owner of every title they have on the catalog.

The deal with each includes things such as the price they will pay for showing it and the countries in which they will have the right to show it. Unfortunately, those things result in inconvenience for their clients. First, they have to pay for the service. Second, they can only see the video platform’s content in their country. So the content library that every platform shows varies with every territory, sometimes wildly. This issue is easy to bypass if you have a premium VPN service, but that’s another story. However, there is one thing that legal streaming websites give to their users, and only a few stop to think about and appreciate it: security.

Watching video streams online comes with risks. But as happens with every popular trend, users are only aware once it’s too late. After that, it’s more or less normal. Security is often the last consideration in a user’s mind when entertainment is the priority. However, awareness is the first step in solving digital security problems, so let’s quickly look at the main security threats you face when watching online streams.

Identity theft

While many free streaming sites need no registration, some of them do. Here comes the first problem. Most users try to have the same username for every account and the same email address; the worst thing is that they will repeat the same password. According to Google, about seven out of every ten users will recycle the same password over several or all their digital accounts. It is a recipe for disaster.

Here we meet our convenience vs security conflict again. Having a single password to unlock every account is convenient. You only memorize one password. You don’t even need to think about which account you’re trying to access, but you can type in the duplicate keys you use in every case and get the job done. But this exceedingly convenient strategy is the worst security nightmare too.

Take a moment to think about what happens if only one of your accounts gets hacked. If that password opens the locks to all your internet doors, the hacker can suddenly gain access to all of them with a single successful attack. Then, they will be able to collect enough information about you to steal your identity and sell it to other criminals.