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Growing Number of State Attorneys General Alarmed over Cyber Risks from Illegal Websites

More than Half of U.S. state AGs Alert Consumers that Sites Offering Pirated Entertainment Content May Infect Computers with Malware

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Attorneys General representing California, Texas, Virginia and 25 other states have warned consumers about the threat of websites pirating TV, film and other entertainment content in a public service campaign spearheaded by Internet safety watchdog Digital Citizens Alliance. Hackers often target these illegal sites to bait users into downloading malware that can jeopardize their personal and financial information or, in some cases, secretly hijack their computer cameras.

Logo for the Digital Citizens Alliance. Digital Citizens is a consumer-oriented coalition focused on educating the public and policy makers on the threats that consumers face on the Internet and the importance for Internet stakeholders - individuals, government and industry - to make the Web a safer place. (PRNewsFoto/Digital Citizens Alliance) (PRNewsFoto/DIGITAL CITIZENS ALLIANCE)

The campaign – a national first – features a series of PSAs on television, radio, and social media channels.

"With technology moving so fast, it's sometimes difficult to know what is risky. That is why state AGs are playing a vital role in alerting consumers to the danger that consumers face from malware and content theft websites," said Tom Galvin, Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance. "From websites to new devices loaded with pirated content, hackers have found ingenious ways to invade your home. The best defense is knowledge, and AGs are providing it."

Those state AGs who most recently participated in the campaign include:

AR: Leslie Rutledge 
CA: Xavier Becerra 
CO: Cynthia Coffman 
IA: Tom Miller 
SC: Alan Wilson 
TX: Ken Paxton 
UT: Sean Reyes
NM: Hector Balderas 
NV: Adam Laxalt 
OK: Mike Hunter 
RI: Peter Kilmartin   
VA: Mark Herring 
WY: Peter Michael

Additional campaign participants include:

AZ: Mark Brnovich
CT: George Jepsen
DC: Karl Racine
HI: Doug Chin
ID: Lawrence Wasden
IN: Curtis Hill
KS: Derek Schmidt
KY: Andy Beshear
LA: Jeff Landry
MT: Tim Fox
NC: Josh Stein
ND: Wayne Stenehjem
OR: Ellen Rosenblum
SD: Marty Jackley
WI: Brad Schimel

In addition to alerts from state AGs, the Federal Trade Commission has warned consumers about the malware dangers from content theft.  

Research by cyber security firm RiskIQ found that 1 in 3 pirate websites expose users to malware. The firm also estimates that content thieves are making an estimated $70 million a year just from allowing malware distributors to place malicious code on their websites.

As previously publicized, a RiskIQ investigation probed hundreds of websites dedicated to distributing stolen movies and television shows and found:

  • Merely visiting a content theft site can place a user's computer at risk: 45 percent of malware was delivered through so-called "drive-by downloads" that invisibly download to the user's computer - without requiring them to click on a link.
  • Once hackers get into a computer, they can use it for a wide range of criminal schemes where the user of the computer is the victim. These include:
    • Stealing bank and credit card information that is then sold on underground Internet exchanges. After the hack, consumers find their bank accounts depleted or suspicious charges on their credit cards. There is an underground market for credit card information that ranges from $2 to $135 per credit card credential.
    • Finding personal information that makes it easier to sell a person's identity to the highest bidder online. In July, the FBI added five online criminals to its "Most Wanted" list for creating computer programs that stole identities and financial information.
    • Locking a user's computer and demanding a ransom fee before returning access to their files.
    • Taking over the cameras of computers, especially young female and male teens. In some cases, hackers have tried to blackmail those targeted to perform "shows" for them.

About Digital Citizens

Digital Citizens is a consumer-oriented coalition focused on educating the public and policy makers on the threats that consumers face on the Internet and the importance for Internet stakeholders – individuals, government and industry - to make the Web a safer place. Based in Washington, DC, the Digital Citizens Alliance counts among its supporters: private citizens, the health, pharmaceutical and creative industries as well as online safety experts and other communities focused on Internet safety.

Contact: Adam Benson, [email protected], 202.999.9104

Cision View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/growing-number-of-state-attorneys-general-alarmed-over-cyber-risks-from-illegal-websites-300598311.html

SOURCE Digital Citizens Alliance

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