AMC’s The Walking Dead is second only to HBO’s Game of Thrones as the riskiest show to download on illegal piracy networks, Variety reports.
The hit series are targets for hackers who use pirated episodes of popular shows to infect computers with malicious malware, according to research released by BestVPN.com and antivirus producers Kapersky Lab.
The study showed more than 170,000 infection attempts were piggybacking episodes of Game of Thrones in the past year, affecting about 50,000 users.
The Walking Dead came in second with around 100,000 infection attempts across nearly 20,000 computers worldwide, far outpacing other audience favorites, including Netflix exclusives Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black and HBO exclusive Westworld.
Stranger Things registered 13,257 attempted attacks for 4,600 users, trailed by Westworld at 5,300 infection attempts across 2,063 computers and 3,348 attack notifications across 1,334 computers for Orange Is the New Black.
Malicious executable files can be bundled within or disguised as video files that, when opened, allows for implanted malware to infect a user’s computer, leaving the device vulnerable to cybercriminals.
Piracy was on the rise for The Walking Dead in Season Seven: its season opener, which revealed Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) as the victims of Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) baseball bat Lucille, was illegally downloaded more than 600,000 times in the first few days after its Oct. 23, 2016 debut, topping the 570,000 piracy figure of the Season Six premiere the year before.
In 2017, The Walking Dead Season Eight emerged as the second most torrented show of the year. It came in behind Game of Thrones, the six-year consecutive leader in online piracy.
Previously, in 2016, AMC adopted Civolution’s NexGuard watermarks to help protect their assets from leaking online.
The programmer announced that year digital watermarks would be embedded in shows like The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul, which would allow AMC to trace the source of a specific copy were it to leak online for pirates.
That system is more of a preventative measure for partners like international distributors and subcontractors typically performing post-production services, with the unique watermark then being able to identify and out the source of its leak.0comments
“It is paramount for us to protect our assets when they are at their most valuable,” said Steve Pontillo, AMC’s chief technology officer. “This enhanced content security is a powerful deterrent against piracy and protects our revenue and that of our distribution partners.”
Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead Season Nine, the last for Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, could be a prime target for piracy. That episode premieres Nov. 4 at 9/8c on AMC.