Why Digital Music Downloads Are Dangerous

  • Typing in the word ‘free’ increases risk of infection
  • Stay away from free music websites to lessen risk
  • Fan clubs also targetted

On the back of Norton’s report about Aussies being victims of fraud comes a fresh warning from another security software provider, McAfee.

It has announced the findings of its 2010 “Digital Music & Movies Report: The True Cost of Free Entertainment”, revealing the growing number of cyber threats associated with the popularity of online music and videos. McAfee researchers found that adding the word ‘free’ to searches increases the risk of landing on a malicious site. McAfee also revealed that cybercriminals hide malicious content in music and movie-related sites, and even fan clubs sites.

In recent years, as consumers have increasingly watched video or downloaded music online, cybercriminals have shifted their attacks to include more dangerous websites, malicious ads, and video viewing tools.

In the report, researchers outlined several specific threats including the threat of “free” software, MP3s and streaming video, dangerous fan pages and malicious ads that appears even on well-established, reputable web sites. The research found that adding the word “free” to a search for music ringtones resulted in a three-fold increase in the riskiness of the sites returned by major search engines in English. The word “free” in other languages yielded similar results.

Searching for “MP3s” added risk to music search results, while searching for “free MP3s” made those searches even riskier. Even when a consumer indicated that they wanted to pay for the MP3 in their search, results still sent them to pirated content.

McAfee also discovered thousands of malicious and suspicious URLs associated with fan clubs or comments made on social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter. Malicious advertising or “malvertising,” where an ad is used to distribute malware or exploit the user’s browser, is a common means of infection. For instance, McAfee identified “malvertising” on perezhilton.com as recently as June that redirected users to a domain that delivered malicious software.

Tips to stay safe:

  • Avoid searching for free content. Instead, stick to legitimate, paid sites to get music and movies.
  • Avoid clicking on links in banner ads on music, movie and download sites that aren’t well-established.
  • Use comprehensive security software to protect against the latest threats.
  • Use common sense: Don’t click on links posted in forums or on fan pages.
  • Use a safe search plug-in, to warn of potentially risky sites in search results.
  • Realise that the more popular a topic, movie or artist is, the more risky the search results.