The report, Cracking Down on Digital Piracy, says these infringing boxes put users at risk of scams, malware and electrical safety issues. The set-top boxes are paired with third-party add-ons which allow users to illegally stream content.
Using insight from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), Police Scotland and Entura International, the report suggests that 25 percent of British people access material illegally.
The IPO said: “At a conservative estimate, we believe a million set-top boxes with software added to them to facilitate illegal downloads have been sold in the UK in the last couple of years.”
Criminals are making the majority of their money from advertising, using banner ads and pop-up windows on the software. Others charge subscription fees and some charge others to put malware on their sites.
The report also identified content ransoming as a new way criminals are making money, with hackers claiming to have stolen movies or TV episodes prior to release and demanding ransoms.
This was seen earlier this year when HBO was attacked and 1.5 terabytes of data relating to forthcoming episodes and scripts of Game of Thrones was stolen. Some episodes were subsequently leaked.
A report from content protection company MUSO earlier this month showed that season seven of Game of Thrones received one billion illegal downloads and streams. Episode six received 29 percent more illegal viewings than the shows season finale, which MUSO said was likely due to the leak.
Kieron Sharp, director general of FACT, said: “This report has come at a crucial time in our fight against digital piracy.”
“A quarter of Brits access digital material illegally, and often don’t realise the risks associated with that, for them and their families. Pirates are not Robin Hood characters, they are criminals who do it to make money through illicit means.”
He added: “As a result, the risks are high—inappropriate advertising that could be seen by young children, electrical safety associated with counterfeit parts, and financial cyber crime.”
Detective chief inspector Pete Ratcliffe, head of PIPCU, said: “While it may be tempting for people to think they are getting a bargain when streaming illegally, it’s important to remember that there are organised criminals behind it, often associated with other serious crimes.”
“Pirating content is not a petty crime, from release groups to site operators to set-top box wholesalers and distributors, there is an international criminal business model.”