I'm a security expert and dodgy Amazon fire sticks are here to stay

EXCLUSIVE I’m a security expert and dodgy Amazon fire sticks are here to stay: Tech guru says millions of Brits fed up with extortionate costs of subscriptions like Netflix, Prime and Disney are getting a device…but warns they are easy to hack

  • EXCLUSIVE: Expert James Bore said streaming illegal content was getting worse
  • He said once a criminal hacks your system, they can do ‘whatever they want’
  • Do YOU stream content illegally? Email in confidence: [email protected]

Dodgy Amazon fire sticks used Brits struggling with the extortionate costs of subscription services are easy to hack and could even be turned into listening bugs by cyber criminals, a security expert has warned.

Data from Fact-UK shows a significant increase in the number of people using such devices to access content like Netflix, Sky Sports or Disney+ for a fraction of what it costs to get hold of by legitimate means. 

With entertainment companies continuing to hike the price of their packages and cracking down on people sharing accounts, the trend shows no signs of abating, according to chartered security professional James Bore.

The 40-year-old, of Bores security and technology consultancy, told MailOnline that plugging the stick in by itself does not usually represent a risk, but using pirated content via services that have been loaded onto it could potentially result in users’ data being collected.

‘Certainly some of the [sites] are using the free content they provide almost as bait to get people to sign up to their own services, which gets them usernames, passwords it may even get card details,’ he said. 

Mr Bore stressed that while he does not think a listening bug is a realistic threat for the average person, he noted that ‘it is possible’

Chartered security professional James Bore, 40, of Bores security and technology consultancy, spoke to MailOnline about the risks illegal fire stick devices pose to households

‘In theory, if someone did decide to break into them – because they often don’t have security updates and the software is not written well – and it’s one with voice activation, they could turn it into a listening bug or pull data off it.

READ MORE: 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 

‘Or they could send a request through for a window to pop up and ask you for your credit card details. Once someone’s got control of it, they can do almost anything they want.

‘It’s worth remembering whenever you sign up to a service like this, you are engaging with people who openly break the law.’

The security expert, from London, said he has actually been able to prompt a pop up to appear on some of his research devices on his isolated network.

When asked whether the streaming of illegal content was getting worse, Mr Bore said: ‘Definitely and I think it will continue to get worse as the streaming services fragment more and more and put obstacles in the way.

‘The more they crack down on people, the more they make people’s lives harder, the more they try to restrict content, and the more they monetise it, the more people are going to find other ways to do it. 

‘Because once it’s online, it doesn’t matter if it’s on a paid service or not, it becomes almost trivial for one person with a legitimate subscription to copy that content and make it available, they cannot prevent that.’

‘Quite a few of these illegal fire sticks are [legitimate] fire sticks, which haven’t had the branding put on them and have been diverted from factories and reprogrammed with different software,’ he added.

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.

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. 

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 (stock image)

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 that 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+.

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.

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’

READ MORE: Warning to Amazon Firestick users streaming illegal content: Cyber experts warn devices fuel organised crime with gangs profiting off YOUR personal data – as retailers vow to crack down on subscription dodgers

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 is 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.

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.’

Sky did not wish to comment when approached by MailOnline. 

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ were contacted for comment. 

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