Football live streaming sites that let you watch premier league games online for free pose risk

The opening matches of the 2018/19 season are here, but cyber experts warn some links to the fixture could be dangerous

Anthony Cuthbertson
Saturday 11 August 2018 14:10
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The Premier League season has arrived, with Manchester United and Leicester both hoping to relive recent title triumphs with a strong start to each of their campaigns. The 7pm game will be broadcast live in the UK through Sky Go, Now TV and Sky Sports Premier League, but the return of the football season has seen the reemergence of the issue of illegal streaming.

For some fans looking to watch the game online for free, many will look for illegal links to live streams on sites like Reddit and Facebook, though cyber experts warn this could be risky.

One popular forum on Reddit, Soccer Streams, has more than 250,000 subscribers, while around 200,000 illegal streams of Premier League matches were shut down last season, as rights holders cracked down on pirates.

A new blocking order passed by the UK High Court last month could result in even more live links being shut down this season, however the risks still remain the same.

"There are a lot of illegal streaming sites out there, all of which offer cybercriminals an opportunity to exploit the sport’s popularity – which is likely to be higher than normal following the recent World Cup success – and steal fans’ information," Chris Hodson, a data protection officer at the cyber security firm Zscaler, told The Independent.

UK rules mean games that are played at 3pm on Saturday cannot be screened on television, which Mr Hodson says will offer a major incentive for cyber criminals and hackers. The 3pm "Blackout" forbids English Premier League and Football League from being televised between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on Saturdays, in order to promote fan attendance to games.

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"We’ll likely see illegal streaming peak during these games – and criminals will be capitalising on this, he said. "It may be that they dupe fans into downloading malicious code, send them to sites hoisting web exploits or simply convince them to share their online account credentials; whatever their tactic, their main goal is to get their hands on personal information that they can then use to make money.”

The risks are not limited to people clicking on live links to games, but also the criminals who distribute them. The anti-piracy group FACT warned this week that anyone sharing illegal content could face prosecution, citing the recent sentencing of John Haggerty in relation to streaming pirated content.

“As the Premier League season starts, the public should be aware that it is illegal to watch a match that is streamed through social media, on a piracy site, or using a device, box or stick connected to your TV," Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT, said in a statement.

(Getty Images

Illegal live streaming of football games peaked during the 2018 World Cup, which saw thousands of live feeds appear on websites with links to watch the matches. Security analysts expect this trend to continue into the new Premier League season.

“It’s become a lucrative business for malicious actors to host illegal streaming websites – and the Premier League is a perfect opportunity for them," Chris Hodson from the cybersecurity firm Zscaler, told The Independent.

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