Could YOUR neighbour report your illegal Amazon firestick? Warning to law breakers streaming content on ‘dodgy’ devices as experts say officers might turn up at your door

Date:

People using firesticks and other illegal streaming devices could face a knock at the door from police officers in the near future warning them about prosecution, experts have warned.

According to data from Fact-UK, there has been a significant increase in the number of people using their Amazon fire stick to illegally watch subscription TV.

The cybercrime specialists say these illicit streams could be funding organised crime and allowing gangs to profit off their personal data – as retailers crack down on the practice. 

Some households use the devices to watch content from subscription services such as Netflix or Sky Sports illegally for a fraction of the price. 

Intelligence unit officers working with Fact-UK have sent out ‘Cease and Desist’ letters and are conducting nationwide ‘Knock and Talks’ with those who partake in the illegal practice, informing individuals they face further action or prosecution if they do not stop.

Some households use the devices to watch content from subscription services such as Netflix or Sky Sports illegally for a fraction of the price

Some households use the devices to watch content from subscription services such as Netflix or Sky Sports illegally for a fraction of the price

Dr John Dempsey is among experts warning that those who illegally stream subscription services could be placing their data and financial security at risk

Dr John Dempsey is among experts warning that those who illegally stream subscription services could be placing their data and financial security at risk

A FACT officer visits the home of a suspected illegal streamer (stock image)

A FACT officer visits the home of a suspected illegal streamer (stock image)

A spokesperson for Fact UK: ‘FACT constantly monitors the digital landscape to combat illegal streaming activities in the UK and Ireland. We utilise a range of methods to identify individuals engaged in unauthorised businesses that offer access to illegal streams. 

‘One of these methods is through our partnership with Crimestoppers to make it as easy as possible to report illegal streaming, and over the past year, we have seen a significant increase in the number of reports directly linked to Firesticks and illegal streaming. These reports are then investigated by our Intelligence Unit, and followed up with a rolling programme of action which includes issuing ‘Cease and Desist’ letters and conducting nationwide ‘Knock and Talks.’ 

‘These home visits, undertaken in conjunction with law enforcement, serve to inform individuals about their activities and the immediate need to cease and desist or face further action or prosecution. 

‘We also work In close collaboration with law enforcement to gather further evidence to actively pursue legal actions against these criminal entities.’

The illicit streams, provided by IPTV services, work by users downloading an app which provides access, then paying a fixed subscription fee to the developers for the pay-for services. IPTV, or internet protocol TV, refers to the provision of content through an IP rather than a traditional TV stream.

But as subscription services such as Amazon and Sky work to try and cut down on illegal streaming, cybercrime experts are now warning providers could be covertly stealing people’s personal data and selling it on for profit.

Fact-UK explained: ‘Beyond addressing the criminal aspects of illegal streaming, it is crucial to raise public awareness regarding the associated risks. FACT collaborates with Bestreamwise.com to educate consumers about the dangers of illegal streaming. These risks include exposing themselves and their families to malware, fraud, scams, and identity theft.’

It comes as users could also face prosecution – after Sky teamed up with trading standards to threaten those providing the services with arrest unless they cease their activities. 

Firms previously warned they are cracking down on the rise of illegal streaming, with users being cautioned they could face a knock on the door from police.

Copyright laws mean those found to be fraudulently receiving transmissions can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and face a hefty fine.

But consumers are also being warned that some of the services are not secure and place personal data at risk due to lax security measures.

Dr John Dempsey from the University of Central Lancashire, who specialises in cybercrime investigation, told MailOnline that users cannot be sure of their online safety.

‘Your personal data may be sold – this includes contact details such as email addresses, IP address, home address, credit card numbers,’ he said.

‘A firestick contains an ‘operating system’ which can be infected by malicious software, which could then infect any device it is connected to – this may give a criminal access to other devices that are connected to your home network.

‘The person selling the firestick may even have included vulnerabilities or backdoors that allow them to access your network and collect network data.’

Dr Dempsey added that users of such services should also be aware they could be funding organised crime.

Fire sticks are currently available on Amazon from £24.99 – with more recent models on sale for as much as £69.99 – although they are also available on resell sites such as eBay.

Paying for multiple subscriptions can soon prove costly: with Sky Sports alone charging £34.99 per month, some users are seeking to bend the rules and ‘unlock’ their stick to enable them to download illicit apps to their device.

A basic Netflix subscription without ads now costs £10.99 per month, Disney+ charges £7.99 per month and Amazon Prime is £8.99 per month.

Downloading apps which offer all of these services for free or for cut prices is not illegal, but using them to stream the copyrighted content is. This applies to all content from paid TV channels and streaming services such as Disney+.

Downloading apps which offer the services is not illegal, but using them to stream the copyrighted content is

Downloading apps which offer the services is not illegal, but using them to stream the copyrighted content is

Police have previously warned those organising and using these services that they are not safe from the law. 

Over a period of three weeks last month the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and Sky teamed up with regional police forces to deliver 47 cease-and-desist notices to UK providers of IPTV services.

How Internet Protocol TV devices work 

IPTV is the delivery of content like drama series or live sport through IP networks, rather than traditional terrestrial, satellite, and cable TV formats.

The actual technology used in IPTV is legal and the boxes used to access the signals were originally designed to allow consumers to stream legitimate content to their TV via a broadband connection. 

However, there is software available which, when installed with illicit add-ons, allows the user to access illegal content through streaming websites, Trading Standards says.

By configuring the boxes in this way, the consumer can easily access illicit websites that allow access to subscription TV, Premier League football, films and sports events for the one-off price of a box.

The notices instructed those running the services to immediately stop their illegal streaming activity otherwise risk facing criminal prosecution. 

Addresses visited were located across the UK including in London, Dorset, Cambridgeshire, West Midlands, North Midlands, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Scotland.

Matt Hibbert, Director of Anti-Piracy UK and ROI at Sky, said: ‘We understand the power of working with our partners to tackle the issue of illegal streaming, and we’re grateful to FACT and law enforcement for their support.

‘At Sky we are passionate about protecting our content while ensuring consumers can enjoy the content they love, free from risks that illegal streams can pose’.

In October the mastermind behind a £1million operation providing an illegal Premier League streaming service was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Steven Mills, 58, from Shrewsbury, ran the operation called Firesticks which he claimed had 30,000 subscribers over a five-year period.

This followed the jailing of five men in May who ran a cut-price Premier League streaming service for just £10 per month.

This compared to up to £80 per month for legally accessing all the games through Sky, BT Sport and Amazon. 

Their operation involved 50,000 subscribers and netted them more than £7million. 

At Derby Crown Court, the gang’s ringleader Mark Gould, 36, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Four others were sentenced to between three and more than five years.

After the case, Tom Nener of law firm Pinsent Masons said sports organisations do have options to crack down on illegal streaming.

Partner Mr Nener said: ‘A dedicated team, together with monitoring software, should be put in place to search for and identify illegal streams during the course of a broadcast. 

As well as sports, the sticks are also being used to circumvent subscription requirements on streaming websites

As well as sports, the sticks are also being used to circumvent subscription requirements on streaming websites

‘As a minimum, major social media platforms, illegal streaming websites and apps should all be monitored. 

‘Once infringements have been identified, a cost-effective removal procedure should be implemented through filing takedown notices on social media platforms and against infringing websites and apps.’

He added that companies can benefit from court orders which require internet providers to block access to certain servers.

For those who cannot afford to pay for multiple streaming services at once, Oli Townsend, assistant deals editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, told MailOnline there are a variety of ways consumers can save money on TV.

He said: ‘With the cost of streaming increasing for many, it’s a good time for consumers to consider how much value they’re getting from any subscriptions they have, and to look for alternatives if they want to cut back the cost.

‘Only subscribing to one streaming service at a time, watching what you want, then cancelling and moving to another is a quick way to save each month.’

‘If you’re subscribed to one but struggle to find something to watch, remember if you’re paying monthly, most let you cancel penalty-free at any time.’

He advised users to look out for deals on different platforms, such as cheaper deals for Netflix or Disney with adverts and a Prime Video-only subscription which saves £3 a month. 

‘You could also consider switching to an annual subscription if you’ll use it – Amazon Prime, Paramount+ and Disney+ all offer this option, which can save £13 to £22 a year,’ Mr Townsend added.

Amazon and Sky have been contacted for comment. 

Post source: The List

Share post:

Subscribe

Popular

More like this
Related

‘Ploey 2’ Flies to Multiple Territories After Debuting in Berlin

The Playmaker has closed a raft of pre-sales deals...

Zelenskyy will co-host summit in Albania seeking more war support from southeastern Europe

TIRANA – Ukraine's president will co-host a summit with...

Good Times actor Buddy Duress dies aged 38

28 February 2024 Buddy Duress has died aged 38. Buddy...