Using torrent sites is risky business, and I'm not just talking about the legality of downloading copyrighted material. According to a joint report from Digital Citizens Alliance and RiskIQ, users are 28 times more likely to contract malware from a torrent site compared to mainstream websites or licensed content providers.
In a sample of 800 sites that distribute copyrighted movies and television shows, RiskIQ found that one in three pirating sites contained malware. What's more, 45 percent of the malware detected was of the drive-by type meaning visitors don't even have to click a link to become infected.
Of the malware it encountered, RiskIQ said 54 percent was trojans while 29 percent was adware. The remaining 17 percent consisted of toolbars (five percent), botnets (three percent) and "other" (nine percent).
Some may wonder why torrent site administrators (or anyone in general) would have an interest in loading a site with malware. The answer to that question is really quite simple as it all comes down to money.
As the report notes, there's a lot of organized crime at play in which crime rings will recruit torrent site owners to help them spread malware. It's estimated that pirate site owners generate as much as $70 million each year from such crime units. That may seem like a lot of money but it's hardly anything at all compared to what stolen credentials are worth.
Need proof? The Department of Justice claims that US consumers lost $24.7 billion to identity theft in 2012.