Binge watching tv shows, movies, and other entertainment is now a leading pastime for American households. 

With more of us spending more time at home because of the pandemic, the demand for streaming services has only increased. However, buyers be aware. If a dirt-cheap streaming subscription service seems too good to be true, it’s probably illegal. 

Piracy has moved from reselling stolen music and movies to streamed content. According to a new report from Digital Citizens Alliance and NAGRA, the digital TV division of the Kudelski Group, criminals have discovered that for a small investment they can reap big profits in the streaming black market. 

Pirated subscription services generate $1 billion in annual revenues by a conservative estimate. Criminals also sell pirated streaming devices pre-loaded with apps full of stolen content, partner with hackers to install malware in free apps, and outright sell private information of customers.

This practice is widespread. An estimated 9 million subscribers of fixed broadband in the U.S. use a pirated subscription. They may not necessarily know it though. 

A network of legal and respected businesses supports this black market. Scammers utilize social media channels to drive consumers to legitimate-looking websites where they download apps, buy pirated devices, or access pirated services in other ways. Users pay for illegal services and devices through legal financial processing services. 

As consumers, we should be very concerned. We are exposed to fraud, identity theft, malware, ransomware, cyber attacks, and other illegal activities. As the report noted:

One of the side effects of illegal PS IPTV services is consumers unknowingly “invite” software, created by criminals, into their home. And these operators have a track record of searching for exploits that generate profits for themselves at the expense of customers and other players in the ecosystem. 

As women and mothers, we should rightly be concerned about our privacy and security as well as that of our families. 

Piracy is also a drag on our economy. It crowds out legitimate economic activity, erodes market share of legal businesses, and leads to fewer jobs.

Policymakers should consider ways to crack down on this new frontier in piracy before it wreaks havoc on American consumers and our economy.