The last year the world seemed “normal” – or 2019 – was also the start of the Streaming Wars. In short, the conflicts began after all the big content players finally got it through their thick skulls that streaming was here to stay. Sure, some people still enjoy seeing a movie on the big screen, but many more prefer their comfortable sofa in their living room, with the option of pausing while they run to the bathroom or grab a beverage of malware. “When you want it, how you want it,” trumps fancy Dolby sound systems or even IMAX for a huge number of consumers. If you want to blow the mind of a 20-something-year-old, tell them how Netflix used to be a DVD subscription company. You walked out to your mailbox, grabbed a package of DVDs, watched them at home, and then sent them on to another Netflix subscriber, again via snail mail. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Netflix and Hulu were the two already in the lead and so through 2019-2020, other streaming services such as HBO Max, Disney, and Apple not only got in on the action but also aggressively tried to pry customers away from the two leaders. The challengers have been somewhat successful but the real winner was streaming. There is a touch of irony in the fact that had illegal sites such as Napster, LimeWire, BitTorrent, and Pirate Bay not arisen, streaming may never have become the norm. Thanks to pirate platforms, it became so easy to bootleg that companies finally stopped demanding we pay unrealistic prices and set up reasonably priced so subscriptions for listening or watching whatever you want whenever you wanted.
Now that streaming has gone more than completely mainstream, the TV arm of broadcasters are feeling a rather sharp pinch; not that most of the general public likely cares. These companies formerly raked in untold billions via virtual monopolies – and forced us to watch a ton of crap content. Some are downright enjoying watching the “big boys” squirm. The revolution is complete and today it takes five minutes to set up a streaming website or a second to hit “live” on a social media streaming platform. There are, however, some interesting debates related to this evolution in tech.
We still haven’t quite figured out what to do with people who stream crimes or other illegal or sickening content. Platforms are getting better at snuffing out snuff films before they are seen by too many, but it’s a problem still not quite solved. How do you allow true “live” content and police it at the same time? Malware and other attacks are a newer threat. According to a report by the Cyber Center of Excellence based in San Diego, California, cybercriminals are increasingly disguising themselves as major streaming services to spread malicious malware and conduct other cybercrimes. You may never have thought about it, but is streaming safe? The answer depends on how you protect yourself. The disguises used can be quite brazen. There are reports of malicious actors pretending to be Hulu or Netflix, hoping to steal a password, bombard you with spam, infect systems with viruses, or attempt a phishing attack.
Very frequently the type of attack used is a Trojan. Like its Greek namesake, you let it in when you use streaming services unsafely. After they’re inside the gates, cybercriminals can sneak out and block or delete data or otherwise mess with your digital presence. Experts are advising that we all adopt a bit more common sense when using streaming services by only accessing them through a paid subscription, only using official websites, and not downloading any versions that have been modified, etc.
Passwords that are strong and changed frequently are also a good idea but additionally, there is a final layer of defense many are now adopting. Having a good adblocker in place keeps ads from covering a web page; which is why most people use one. But some may not know that online advertisements are frequently also used as an inroad for attackers, even on websites that look legit. So, by blocking suspicious ads, you reduce your susceptibility to being hacked or suffering from some other digital security infiltration of malware.
Blocking apps such as the free-to-download BlockSite, for example, are increasingly being used to help people stay productive. With a blocking app, you can disallow yourself from accessing social media, or shopping sites, or pornographic content for a specific period of time. You get to control and configure the settings of what you see online and when. Many workers are reporting productivity level increases, while students are getting more actual studying done thanks to a blocking app. Another major benefit to a blocking app, however, is that it could improve your overall cybersecurity. By blocking ads and giving you security alerts, the app could keep you from getting into trouble in the first place. They are proactive, rather than reactive.
Anti-virus software might notify you of a malware infection, but real-time protector apps can stop the infection from occurring. Streaming is a part of our lives now as commodified as electricity or water. But there are few bad actors in the power or water company trying to deliberately screw with you, steal your identity or infect you with viruses. The best defense is often a good offense, so give some thought to how you stream and whether you’re doing it safely. It sucks to be a victim. Practice safe streaming!