back to article Back to the Future 2: Gasp! America's trade watchdog discovers the risks of 'free' movies

You may want to sit down for this. Did you know that movie files downloaded for free from the internet may contain malware? You did? Well it was news to US trade watchdog the FTC's assistant director Will Maxson, who published a whole blog post about this shocking revelation on Thursday. Will was also shocked to discover it …

  1. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    FTC: Making America GREAT AGAIN

    The Federal Trade Commission and the American Guild of Organists have reached a tentative settlement over rules that restrict competition. The guild will no longer restrain members from soliciting work as musicians and will stop issuing compensation schedules and model contract provisions.

    The settlement, which is subject to a 30-day comment period, follows a 17-month agency investigation.

    http://www.ftcwatch.com/tag/will-maxson/

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: FTC: Making America GREAT AGAIN

      Aww, come on. Give the guy a break. He's been busy trying to catch Rachael ever since he busted Heather. There's nothing wrong with taking a year and a half for a little organ music and it would explain why he's so behind on the movie download thing.

      Meh, it's government, time is defined on a different scale. If they were a car the 0-60 times would be clocked with a calendar and likely more than one.

  2. Captain DaFt

    Revealed!

    Will Maxson, AKA Captain Obvious! ☺

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Revealed!

      Obvious....mmmm. After downloading 1 piece of malware, it took 4 more to learn the lesson, which is make sure your script writers use games as the base example. Nobody is believing that 5/5 movies install malware. Also vague comments about malware installing ads is like saying "yeh it did sumtin sumtin and nother thingy majig...yeh we conducted a survey...yeh that's what we did."

      Two things are certain now: 1. The MPAA needs to update their FUD campaign. 2. The MPAA still corrupts US officials with illegal and/or unethical payouts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Revealed!

      Apparently Ric Romero retired in 2015. If there's still an opening for his job, I think we just found the perfect replacement.

  3. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Actually not -illegal-

    It is only illegal when you charge for the media and present it as a legitimate copy (Counterfeiting). File sharing is copyright infringement, a civil matter (EG, the company that owns the product can sue for breach of contract or for lost profits, but either way, technically not a crime...).

    1. Vic

      Re: Actually not -illegal-

      <blockquiote>File sharing is copyright infringement, a civil matter</blockquiote>

      That depends on your jurisdiction.

      In the UK, for example, Section 107 of CDPA88 makes copyright infringement a criminal offence if it's performed in a commercial situation.

      We have some crap laws...

      Vic.

  4. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge
    Joke

    "popular TV shows, big-league sports, and absorbing games."

    Shouldn't that be 'Biggly sports'? Or has he not received the latest edition of "How to sound like an incompetent blow-hard"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh noes!

    "Sites offering free content often hide malware that can bombard you with ads, take over your computer, or steal your personal information."

    MEE: You mean like Facebook and Twitter do?

    FTC: "No, no, no. I mean pirates with patches on their eyes and parrots on their shoulders."

    PRT: "Yaaarrrgh, matey! I got full use of both me eyes, and I spy two scurvy dogs who are about to be keelhauled for their shiny things. Curse the black spot. YAAAAAAR!"

    MEE: Yeah, that guy has two good eyes.

    FTC: "Look, the point is that free things from individuals, who are not giant corporations siphoning your personal data for marketing scams, are bad and paying for them through the nose through never-ending service contracts is the way of the future. Not hoarding versions of software locally that could be better served by endlessly updating and fooling with, even while you're using it!"

    MEE: But I don't want that.

    FTC: "Oh, yes you do."

    PRT: "Yaaargh, are you guys needing me anymore in this skit?"

    FTC: "No, I'm good. How about you?"

    MEE: Yeah, I full up with pirates already. Like those guys at Facebook and Twitter.

    FTC: "Hey!"

    PRT: "Yarr, that was a good one, matey."

  6. Herby Silver badge

    Of course, will they go after other bad guys?

    Like those who fake being the IRS, or "Microsoft" support.

    Yes, these guys rake in $$$ every day, from unsuspecting people, but I have yet to hear any FTC action about them (like shutting down the toll free number at first sight!).

    Somebody needs to get with the program!

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Of course, will they go after other bad guys?

      To borrow a Harry Potter quote: They need to sort out their priorities.

    2. nijam

      Re: Of course, will they go after other bad guys?

      > Like those who fake being the IRS, or "Microsoft" support.

      Why mention "fake"? "Like the IRS and Microsoft" would have done just fine.

  7. LionelHutz

    Don't forget that Ajit Pai has been on record multiple times as saying he wants these people to be in charge of all American regulation of the Internet.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Don't forget that Ajit Pai..."

      Am I the only one who keeps reading his name as Eejit Pie?

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Holmes

    This all sounds like someone in government got gobsmacked with a clue... I guess he'll go craw back under his rock and wait for the motion picture industry to hand him a rule or something....

    1. Captain DaFt

      "This all sounds like someone in government got gobsmacked with a clue..."

      I'm guessing that the Justin Bieber video someone downloaded turned out to be a ransom ware trojan. ☺

      Eh, could have been worse, it could have actually been a Justin Bieber video! ☺

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Eh, could have been worse, it could have actually been a Justin Bieber video! ☺"

        Pirates wouldn't bother putting Malware in one of those for 3 reasons.

        1) they don't want to have to watch the video themselves while working on the payload

        2) No one would download the file anyway so not worth the work.

        3) anyone who downloads it has enough problems already and even the Pirates are not that depraved to pray on people with this much trouble in their lives already.

  9. James Loughner
    Pirate

    Is there a difference

    They're run by 'pirates,' not legit business people,

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Is there a difference

      >legit business people

      Hold a US passport, stand to attention when the US national anthem is played and make contributions to the RepublicanTrump party...

      1. matchbx
        WTF?

        Re: Is there a difference

        I fail to understand what having a passport or standing at attention when the US National Anthem is played as anything to do with either the Republican Party or Trump.....

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Is there a difference

        Personally, in that situation I always seem to pass gas.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative View

    Perhaps the blog was a way to warn people of the dangers of downloading such content.

    Not everybody using the internet is as tech savvy as the 'experts' that lurk on the pages of El Reg.

    I actually found the article sanctimonious.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
      Pint

      Re: Alternative View

      Have a pint to wash away the downvotes...

      Yes, good Will is bumbling along some 20 years behind the curve, but that is par for the course for, what? 80%? 90%? of all those lovely people out there ... "The e ? But that's the button for the internet!"

  11. Orv Silver badge

    The other day I downloaded a video file with malware that caused it to refuse to play on my old VGA monitor. I got it from a shady site called "iTunes." You might want to make a note of it.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "The other day I downloaded a video file with malware that caused it to refuse to play on my old VGA monitor."
      The other day I downloaded a movie on Youtube and it didn't make me sit through all that stupid copyright infringement crap! Hercules Returns as it happens. One of the funniest movies I've ever seen.

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Typical Feral Cluelessness

    What rock have the ferals crawled from under? One of the issues with downloading content from unknown sources is the non-trivial chance of getting malware. The advice I have seen for 15 years + has been to be careful where download stuff from.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Typical Feral Cluelessness

      "One of the issues with downloading content from unknown sources is the non-trivial chance of getting malware. The advice I have seen for 15 years + has been to be careful where download stuff from."

      But he was saying you can get viruses/trojans by downloading and playing pirate videos. The general internet consensus seems to be that that is a vanishingly small probability. Being careful about where visit is useful, but it's worth remembering what a real and viable threats and what are effectively theoretical threats.

  13. Maty
    FAIL

    Well, someone had to ...

    Tune in next week when Will is going to share with us what he discovered when he typed the phrase "eager beaver" into one of those new-fangled search engines.'

    Well, if he'd used Google as I did, he would have found a removal company, two dictionary definitions, a scout adventure camp, a list of animal idioms, and a woodsplitting firm. Even page 10 of the results offered nothing more risque than a Dutch design company.

    try #2 was image search with all filters off. The first hundred images were of - surprise - a flat-tailed rodent, which was occasionally depicted on a T-shirt.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, someone had to ...

      a removal company, two dictionary definitions, a scout adventure camp, a list of animal idioms, and a woodsplitting firm.

      Ah, the joys of targeted advertising...

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Well, someone had to ...

        And targeted advertising is why he got a very different result ...

        This is a measure of your life, what google's targeted response is when your child has a new hamster and wants to know how to figure out if it's a boy hamster or a girl hamster...

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    We recently downloaded movies from five sites that offered them for free

    So he's basically admitting to downloading movies to see if they contained malware...

    ...can we all use that excuse too?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We recently downloaded movies from five sites that offered them for free

      Ha, even that isn't new :)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh no...

    Are we going to get some sort of ad campaign in the spirit of "you wouldnt steal a hand bag".

    I can see it now.

    You wouldn't shag someone with AIDS

    You wouldn't put your dick in a woodchipper

    You wouldn't piss on an electric fence

    You wouldn't illegally download a movie

    Illegally downloaded movies give you cancer, AIDS, crabs and syphillis. Don't do it.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: Oh no...

      Dumb ways to die (for a more upbeat version)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJNR2EpS0jw

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Oh no...

      Are we going to get some sort of ad campaign in the spirit of "you wouldnt steal a hand bag".

      (etc.)

      I want my 'brain on drugs' fried eggs, too, with bacon, sausage, and spam.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm ok, I only download VHS copies. Security through obsolescence.

    I'm glad he highlighted the issue though as there may be people that have been in coma's, living with ancient tribes for years or born yesterday that didn't know.

    Wait till he learns about mp3 files.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge
      Happy

      >I'm ok, I only download VHS copies. Security through obsolescence.

      I assume you also do that over Internet One, ie. the postal system?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Postal - too high-tech!

        decoded from drumbeats and smoke-signals

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Internet One

        Station wagon packed with tapes barreling down the highway = massive bandwith.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Internet One

          "Station wagon packed with tapes barreling down the highway = massive bandwith."

          Yeah, but the latency...

          1. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Internet One

            "Station wagon packed with tapes barreling down the highway = massive bandwith."

            Yeah, but the latency...

            Station wagon called called New Horizons will trump your latency.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    This really sucks!

    I read this story on a day off! What a waste of time.... should have been paid to do it.

  18. DropBear Silver badge
    WTF?

    Actually, yes, that one could be infected with malware strictly by downloading a bunch of compressed but otherwise inert data* to be interpreted as sound or pictures is indeed very much news to me. I DON'T mean clicking on the "use our shiny automatic 'downloader' instead!" button roughly four times as large as the actual link, mind you. Nor downloading something called BlockbusterActionMovie.mp4.rar.docx.bat.exe and just double-clicking it blindly as a bat either. Nor browsing a malicious download page with a browser full of holes and enabled scripting. Just the media file itself - how exactly does that "infect" anyone, again...?

    * Yes, one could possibly find and exploit some weakness in the splitter / decompressor coercing it into executing embedded code if one really is crafty enough; so tell me, which one are you targeting with surgical precision - quartz.dll? FFmpeg? Haali? LAV? Any one of the myriad hard-coded things built into stuff like KMPlayer or GOM? Yeah, you know what - I seriously doubt this is actually being done by anyone, anywhere: the 'downloader' route is far easier...

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Actually, yes, that one could be infected with malware strictly by downloading a bunch of compressed but otherwise inert data* to be interpreted as sound or pictures is indeed very much news to me. I DON'T mean clicking on the "use our shiny automatic 'downloader' instead!" button roughly four times as large as the actual link, mind you. Nor downloading something called BlockbusterActionMovie.mp4.rar.docx.bat.exe and just double-clicking it blindly as a bat either. Nor browsing a malicious download page with a browser full of holes and enabled scripting. Just the media file itself - how exactly does that "infect" anyone, again...?"

      Could be a drive-by download on the website itself? I know, I know, NoScript, AdBlock, etc., but if you are running those you probably know about malware on warez sites. (Does anyone call it warez any more?)

    2. patrickstar

      Well, I suppose you could find a combination of vulnerabilities that lets you cover most widely used media players with a single file, but I've certainly never seen it done. Chances are that triggering a bug in one would cause another to see the file as invalid, but theretically it could definitely be done.

      Have I ever seen it? No. Would anyone waste such a masterpiece on infecting random pirate movie downloaders? Hell no!

      Only infections stemming from pirate sides I've ever heard of are either standard drive-by downloads, , getting an EXE file instead of a movie, or being told you need some special codec and given the file to install it...

      PS. Somewhat relevant blast from the past on El Reg: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/01/14/is_the_riaa_hacking_you/

  19. Detective Emil
    Meh

    "served up a slew of unwanted ads …"

    Are ads ever wanted?

    1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

      Re: "served up a slew of unwanted ads …"

      Seriously, do advertisers not understand that pretty much every ad on YouTube is skipped at exactly five seconds?

  20. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Lamest search engine suggestion ever from El Reg.

    Totally Safe For Work.

  21. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I'm surprised he had the time to come to that conclusion...

    Amidst the FTC's hearings about price fixing in the buggy whip industry and export duties affecting our opium trade with China.

  22. gnasher729 Silver badge

    My TV is infected by malware. Every time I watch TV, most channels contain lots of unwanted adverts.

    1. Mr_Pitiful

      It's worse now than ever I remember

      I used to have Sky but ditched it when the adverts & cost became ridicules

      Our only option at the time was Free Sat and Free View

      Then Offcom started allowing more adverts per hour than the old 4 x 3min breaks max

      On Free *** the program starts and then after 4 minutes there is an ad break for 2-3 mins then more every 10 mins.

      OK so they are free, but I really don't need a HSL Chair, perfume, coffee, DIY or constant adverts for Sky One!

      We subscribed to Now TV (Yes I know it's Sky) but with 80mb download speeds here, we are good to go with 4 boxes.

      ok so it's £19.98 a month, but I reckon it's a better deal

  23. yet_another_wumpus

    Compared to the "real American" malware and rootkits you can get playing properly licensed Sony media.

  24. Chris G Silver badge

    "Will Maxson, who published a whole blog post about this shocking revelation on Thursday."

    A very quiet day at the office then?

    But Will is right, the internet is a dangerous place. Thank Heavens I'm not on it... umm..

  25. mIRCat
    Coat

    To be fair.

    "...and absorbing games."

    What he and his wife do in the bedroom is none of my business.

  26. Philip Stott
    FAIL

    Talking of typing dumbass things into google ...

    Reminds me of a time many years ago when just before leaving work for drinks I realised I didn't know the address of the bar - it was Dirty Dick's (a somewhat famous pub in the City of London). Even after lots of expensive therapy I still can't un-see the results of that search :-(

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When will they...

    Do something about charity shops. They sell copies of movies they got for free from strangers without paying a license to do so.

    Its out of control I tells ya.

  28. nijam

    Just for clarity, is he saying that if you use your credit card card to pay for things that you can get for free, you might get ripped off?

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