The added cybersecurity risks of watching free streams of Oscar-nominated movies

Mar 4, 2024, 10:32 PM | Updated: Mar 5, 2024, 6:08 am

This weekend's Academy Awards show has boosted demand for many of its nominated films. (KSL TV)...

This weekend's Academy Awards show has boosted demand for many of its nominated films. (KSL TV)


SALT LAKE CITY –– This weekend’s Academy Awards show has boosted demand for many of its nominated films. The continually increasing prices of streaming services – Apple, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix and others raised their costs last October – is pushing many folks to look for ways to watch these films for free. But cybersecurity experts warn searching for free streams can get way more costly.

“Oppenheimer” is the bomb apparently when it comes to cyber risks. The cybersecurity experts at Nord VPN came to that conclusion after analyzing thousands of links promising free streams of this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated films.

“We just added in a search engine – pick one – ‘watch free’ and then the name of the movie, and then you get tons of links,” NordVPN’s Andrianus Warmenhoven said of their process.

“Oppenheimer” streams generated the most links to sites with phishing, malware and other malicious programs. “Barbie” and “Poor Things” round out the top three.

Warmenhoven said Oscar time always prompts a huge uptick in people trying to find movies for free. So does summertime.

“It’s usually when there’s a hype coming on, especially in social media, when people talk about it,” he said. “Everybody wants to enjoy the movie at the moment and be in the talk and be in group talking about it.”

But trying to “be in the know” by watching free streams of the latest movies can cause a lot of trouble. Whether it’s a film, TV show or a live sports event, you risk anything from viruses and invasive ads to identity theft and having a cyber crook empty your bank account.

“There’s also, of course, the legality,” Warmenhoven said. “In a lot of countries, it is simply illegal.”

Using a free stream to feed your Oscar fix could bring you a fine or other penalty from your internet provider, loss of service and other legal bruhaha. That’s not hyperbole. The internet is full of examples of people fined or sued for illegally uploading or downloading copyrighted material, including a Minnesota woman accused of sharing 24 songs over the internet who was ordered to pay $1.92 million.

Warmenhoven says only one option protects you.

“Simply don’t do it.”

The Motion Picture Association estimates thieves rake in $2 billion a year with illegal streams just from ads and subscriber fees, alone. Factor in compromised identities and fraud, their actual haul is likely much greater.

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The added cybersecurity risks of watching free streams of Oscar-nominated movies