Notes on Cybersecurity and Pirating Music

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Downloading pirated music and content is an appealing idea. However, there are several consequences to it in the form of the cyber security risks that it poses. 

The Internet of Things has made it easy for people to search and download with the click of a button, purportedly causing the music industry billions of dollars. But it is not just the industry who has something to lose; people who pirate music are risking their data, too.

Let us understand the concept of illegal music downloading, how it affects you and its severe consequences both in the form of data theft and legal action that can be taken against you.

Dangers and Threats

When you are downloading illegal music from untrusted sources, you might not just be downloading an mp3 file, but a host of other malicious files hidden within the network such as adware, malware, virus, and spyware.

The awareness regarding security risks associated with the illegal downloading of music is shockingly low, mostly because downloaders do not see the threat. They are well hidden.

Eric Johnson wrote an academic paper on the subject of illegal downloading from (peer-to-peer) P2P networks and its inadvertent effects called Inadvertent Disclosure – Information Leaks in the Extended Enterprise. During his extensive study, he found out:

  • Security threats to individuals and corporations that these P2P networks pose is mostly unknown and unrecognized.
  • Several confidential and potentially dangerous documents were found on these networks, which could be easily downloaded by hackers to be sold on the grey / black market.
  • The significance of risk that is faced by individuals and companies when they are using these peer-to-peer networks was highlighted by this analysis.

Symantec, a well-known player in the industry, said that P2P networks are one of the top 10 vehicles by which malware and viruses are spread. There is known evidence that backs up the theory that hackers are using P2P networks as a platform to inject ads and files, which are activated once they are clicked on. When a user searches for a keyword, false results are generated by these networks and once the user clicks on the link, the damage is done, resulting in ID theft and data theft.

How it affects you

Once your computer is infected with malicious software, hackers could steal your credit card and banking information to go on a shopping spree. These cases are becoming more common now with more and more people reporting credit card frauds across the globe. This happens when unknown spyware is installed on your computer, which monitors your keystrokes to steal your passwords and user IDs.

PETYA is a ransomeware locker which locks your sensitive data and asks for ransom money in order to release the files. It works by rewriting the MBR (Master Boot Record) and displays a message when you are rebooting your device.

It uses military-grade encryption technology to lock and unlock your files through the cloud. The victims are then forced to make payments using the popular and untraceable crypto currency known as Bitcoin via TOR browser, the only browser that can be used to surf the dark Web.

Two hospitals in California and one in Kentucky were recently hit with ransomware virus in a series of events where files containing patients' data were locked. The FBI is currently investigating the growing number of cases that are being reported by helpless users who were ransomed.

These are just some of the ways you could be targeted. 

In 2016 music fans have several avenues where they can listen to music, safely, for free. Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service, offers a free option. So does Pandora, the world’s leading online radio service. And there’s always YouTube, which has been quietly expanding its free music library to include major contemporary albums. With the rise of streaming media and ever-inflating mobile bandwidth packages, one would think that the P2P usage will naturally decline. But it hasn’t. As of May 2014, media analytics company Tru Optik estimated that over 300 million people swap pirated content every month. Cybercrime is only becoming more advanced and more insidious. With a playground of over 300 million potential victims every month, the cyber security risk implications can be disastrous.