More than one million illegal set-top boxes that allow users to stream content illegally have been sold in the UK over the past two years, according to a new report from IP protection body FACT UK.
The report, titled ‘Cracking Down on Digital Piracy’, gathers insights from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), FACT, City of London Police, Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), Police Scotland and Entura International, and claims that piracy is “putting the public at significant risk”.
The report says that piracy exposes children to inappropriate content – such as ads for casinos and dating sites – as “the majority of criminals behind digital piracy make their money from advertising”.
It also claims that Kodi box add-ons have no parental controls or security standards, and that, with most streaming now happening over social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, criminals can attract more viewers and “put more users at risk of malware or security issues”.
“A quarter of Brits access digital material illegally, and often don’t realise the risks associated with that, for them and their families,” said FACT director general, Kieron Sharp.
“Pirates are not Robin Hood characters; they are criminals who do it to make money through illicit means. 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.”
The report claims that anything from “tens of millions to hundreds of millions of pounds” are going to criminal groups each year as a result of piracy – through ad revenues, subscription fees and malware that can hijack users’ computers.
With the rise of bitcoin, more gangs are also using the dark web to sell illicit information like the illegal software used to modify set-top boxes or customer data acquired through malware, according to the study.
“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,” said the head of the PIPCU, detective chief inspector Pete Ratcliffe.
“Pirating content is not a petty crime; from release groups, to site operators to set-top box wholesalers and distributers, there is an international criminal business model.”
To access the full report click here.