If you want to avoid malware on the internet, the first thing you should do is avoid pirate websites.
A new report from Digital Citizens Alliance and RiskIQ states that users are 28 times more likely to get malware from a torrent website compared to a non-torrent website.
The report also found that a whopping one in three torrent sites contains malware. And that 45% of the detected malware was of the drive-by variety, which means you don’t even have to interact with the website to be infected: you just have to visit the site.
54% of detected malware were Trojans while 29% were adware. The remaining were toolbars (5%), botnets (3%), and “other malware” (9%).
You can view the full 38 page report here in this PDF document.
Why Do Torrent Sites Love Malware? It Makes Money
Torrent sites all suffer from a fundamental problem: people who download torrents are typically web-savvy users that have ad blockers.
The users are also downloading torrents, which typically means they don’t enjoy paying for stuff on the internet.
At the same time, running a torrent site is expensive and risky. You face near-constant lawsuits and takedown requests. Your servers come under attack by third parties. Millions of people visit your site without paying you a dime.
For all of these reasons, torrent site authors often turn to malware as the best solution.
The report linked above suggests that pirate site owners generate $70 million per year by infecting their users with malware.
Of course, that may seem like a lot of money, but it’s a small fraction compared to what the malware authors make by stealing user credentials.
As proof of that fact, the US Department of Justice claims that US consumers lost $24.7 billion to identity theft in 2014.
Clearly, using illegal torrent sites is risky business for more reasons than just the fact you’re downloading copyrighted material.