Advances in technology have allowed us to enjoy on-screen entertainment in more ways than ever before, with ever increasing amounts of exciting and original content. However, some people are avoiding paying for this content by using modified streaming hardware devices, like a set-top box or stick, in conjunction with software such as illegal apps or add-ons, or illegal mobile apps which allow them to watch new movie releases, TV that hasn’t yet aired, and subscription sports channels for free.
Watching entertainment in this way might seem harmless, but it can expose children and young people to explicit advertisements and age inappropriate content because, unlike most legal sources, these devices, apps and add-ons have no effective parental controls.
Your security and safety
Many people aren’t aware that devices pre-loaded to give access to pirated content are illegal and can also be a safety and security risk.
Every time you choose to watch the films, sport and TV shows you love via these apps and add-ons or other illegal sources, you and your family could be exposed to pop-ups and malware, risking your personal details falling into the hands of criminals, and slowing down your devices.
We want to help keep you and your family safe, which is why we are seeking information on those people who are loading, advertising and selling these devices.
What are the risks?
Illegal streams are a safety and security risk. When subscribing to content you could be giving real criminals your personal information; risking identity theft, your bank account being hacked and your online passwords being left unprotected. Testing of these devices also indicates that inferior components are often used which do not meet EU and UK safety standards.
Lack of watershed
The watershed is the time after which TV programmes which might be unsuitable for certain age groups are broadcast. Broadcasters follow a clear set of standards with strict rules on what can be shown before 9pm. These rules do not apply when using an illegal streaming device, or illegal add-ons or mobile apps, meaning content with adult-themes can be viewed by all ages at any time.
Lack of parental controls
Unlike legal sources of content, parental controls you set on your wider home network and other connected devices do not extend to illegal add-ons for Kodi or illegal mobile apps, leaving your family exposed to risks of explicit and age inappropriate content.
You could get hacked
There are a number of ways hackers can access your computer, smartphone, tablet or smart TV if you stream illegal content. Manipulating subtitle text files to include malicious software is one example of how they can do this. These subtitle files can be corrupted with malware, which anti-piracy software may struggle to detect. Once installed, it’s possible for the hackers to take complete control of the device being used to stream the content, potentially giving them access to all sorts of personal information.
You may receive a letter or email offering a payment if you can get money to the sender. The scammer might claim to be somebody official like a lawyer or accountant and promise to give a portion of the money in return for help with the transfer but you'll never see the promised payment.
Real life stories
Industry research has identified cases where inappropriate content has been viewed by children, malware has slowed down devices and pop-ups have appeared asking for money.
The lowdown on illegal streaming devices
Explicit content shown to 6 year olds
Caroline, 42, from Hertfordshire, has a six year old son who experienced two incidents with explicit content when using an illegal streaming device. The first instance was a pop-up of a naked woman whilst watching a programme. Caroline was frantic to shut it down before her son registered what had happened. The second incident occurred when the family were streaming a TV programme but the wrong content appeared. Instead of a child's cartoon, it launched into an adult clip!
Ahmara, 30, and her six year old daughter used to stream pirated content through a laptop running illegal apps and add-ons on Kodi. She experienced an explicit advert half way through watching a movie. When she tried to turn it off, it was stuck and she couldn’t forward through it or close the pop-up. She said: “Streaming legally means that my favourite films don’t drop off half way through. Owning a Kodi box is just a hassle.”
Malware affecting devices
Father of two Tony, 47, from Welling, started noticing greyware and malware after streaming, and he noticed a pop-up allegedly from the FBI asking for money - which was clearly a scam. He said: “Streaming completely changed the way I view content. People always want something for nothing, but it’s just not worth the risk.”
Is it illegal?
It is not a grey area: if you load-up, advertise, market, or sell dodgy streaming devices, you are committing a crime. We want to raise awareness of the risks. We are not asking for personal information about those watching content using those types of devices, but we do want to make you aware that you are breaking the law if you stream content from illegal apps and add-ons. That said, please tell us about people who are advertising, selling, loading up or supplying dodgy devices - or are directing people to use them. Tell us what you know, not who you are. We won't judge, just listen. Once you put down the phone or click send, that is the end of our communication.
Crimestoppers has partnered with the Intellectual Property Office and other industry partners to help protect you and your family from the impact of illegal streaming. If you have information on who is selling or distributing these fully loaded devices, it’s easy and safe to contact us by phone on 0800 555 111 or online anonymously.
There’s no need to risk it. Find content safely and legally
The following links can help you identify how to access legal content and give you more support to keep you and your family safe. Get it right from a genuine site (for all types of online content), www.findanyfilm.com (specifically for film and TV) or Which Film Finder (an interactive tool that allows you to search your favourite show or film).
Find out more facts about this crime or read our FAQs.