Game of Thrones fans attacked by malware during final season

May 23, 2019 - 6:13 PM
A scene from the season 7 finale of 'Game of Thrones.' (Screengrab from HBO)

A top cybersecurity firm saw a sharp increase of malware attacks against users who were attempting to download the final season of acclaimed Game of Thrones series.

In a report, Kaspersky Lab found that many users who were trying to download episodes of the season got infected by malware, or malicious software, instead.

Fans in many parts of the world, including the Philippines, anticipated each episode of Season 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones as this is the final season of the fantasy medieval epic after nearly a decade onscreen.

Approximately 3,000 attempted attacks per day were detected by researchers of Kaspersky Lab and these vary per episode.

“The premiere of each episode was accompanied by a long tail of attacks targeting users who were trying to download the newly released episode. Instead of getting the latest episode, fans received malware disguised behind the name of the show,” the report said.

The third episode titled “The Long Night” triggered the highest number of detected attempts with nearly 1,500 attacked users.

(Photo provided by Kaspersky Lab)

The lowest recorded was after the release of the final episode titled “The Iron Throne.” The number of attacks range between 500 and 1,000 with less than 500 victims.

“Kaspersky lab researchers have found that the average daily number of attacks on users that involved malware disguised as an episode of Game of Thrones, was around 300-400. This number jumped to around 1,200 for the three to four days following the release of each new episode: a three to four-fold increase in malicious activity,” Kaspersky researchers said.

These incidents of scamming also happened during the premiere of Avengers: Endgame.

Streaming websites disguised as free were also cited as “another attack vector,” the researchers explained, as they were actually “designed to extract sensitive data from users.”

The researchers explained similarities between the present scheme and that of the latest Avengers movie.

“We see shared TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) across the phishing websites where scammers try to steal users’ details by promising a pirated movie before its official premiere. We believe there is a certain group of threat actors that methodically hunts fans of popular movies and TV productions, adjusting schemes dynamically according to pop-cultural happenings,” said Tatyana Sidorina, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Malware prevention

Malware is basically short for “malicious software.”

Merriam-Webster defines malware as “a software designed to interfere with a computer’s normal functioning.”

Kaspersky provided tips to users on how to prevent malware from infecting their devices:

  • Avoid questionable websites, especially the ones that distribute pirated content.
  • Don’t enter any information especially credit card details on a website you have no reason to trust.
  • Do not use the same password for different web pages. Use a password manager instead.
  • Use reliable antivirus software with protection from online scams and phishing.