My son was pondering the notion of getting malware from livestreaming the other day and to be honest, it kinda stopped me in my tracks. “Hmm, I’m not sure”, I answered. So I ventured off to do a little research on the topic and find a definitive answer to give him (and myself).
I managed to find out about the malware risks from livestreaming and so now, I’m happy to share what I discovered.
So, Can Live Streaming Give You Viruses? Technically, yes it is possible, but it is not likely if you take preventive steps. Streaming content from a third party can be potentially risky if the streaming site is not a trustworthy source and if you do not have any malware protection software installed and running.
For the purposes of this post, the word ‘virus’ refers to malicious programming code that has the intention of doing something bad. In other words, it’s malware that we’re talking about here.
Defining ‘livestreaming’ and ‘streaming’
There can be a lot of confusion about the different terminology. Some people use both words interchangeably and they might not necessarily know that there is a distinct difference between them.
Definition of Livestreaming
The Cambridge Dictionary has a nice definition that isn’t too wordy and just gets right to the point:
to broadcast video and sound of an event over the internet as it happens, or to be broadcast in this way
Definition of Streaming
Whereas, the same source defines ‘streaming’ as :
the activity of listening to or watching sound or video directly from the internet
I like both of these definitions. The key difference between the two terms is that livestreaming is the broadcast side of things and streaming, by contrast, is at the receiving end.
While we’re at it, let’s define malware and computer virus.
Definition of Malware
BullGuard, experts within the field, (pun not intended), put it like this:
Malware is short for malicious software – computer programs designed to infiltrate and damage computers without the users consent. Malware is the general term covering all the different types of threats to your computer safety such as viruses, spyware, worms, trojans, rootkits and so on.
Definition of Computer Virus
Norton, likewise, have decades of experience in this area. They define a computer virus as:
A computer virus, much like a flu virus, is designed to spread from host to host and has the ability to replicate itself. Similarly, in the same way that flu viruses cannot reproduce without a host cell, computer viruses cannot reproduce and spread without programming such as a file or document.
What’s the difference between a ‘virus from livestreaming’ and a ‘virus from streaming’?
So, things might be appearing a little clearer now. With livestreaming, a user will be broadcasting a live event by sending out video and audio content to an audience via the Internet. With streaming, a user will be simply viewing or listening to video/audio that they are ‘streaming’ down from the Internet. In a sense, livestreaming is uploading and streaming is downloading. I like that definition too. Up and down – it couldn’t be any more straightforward than that!
I suppose, when you think about it, malware is basically code. Code can be found in both software as well as hardware. Live streaming hardware kit can have firmware. Now, what are the chances of malicious code making its way into firmware? Slim I reckon, but who knows? The hardware could have various input devices, like an SD slot or a USB port to save data. In theory, these are potential entry points.
Can malware or virus damage live streaming kit?
I think the generally accepted answer on this is no. Kaspersky has an informative article that refers to hardware damage from a virus as being the ultimate myth. So rest easy folks, your hardware is highly unlikely to fry if it gets infected with malware.
Malware can damage your computer or any other device you are using for streaming, apps, and other online activities. Some viruses are created in such a way they delete your files, reformat your hard drive, and delete programs. Others can multiply so quickly that you lose control over your computer and are unable to access the internet.
You can read more about what a computer virus can do here. Some of the symptoms you can face are:
- Slow computer performance
- Erratic computer behavior
- Unexplained data loss
- Frequent computer crashes
If you are not careful and do not take steps to fight the viruses, your computer can suffer and crash on you. Physically, your live streaming kit will not be broken, but it could stop working, as its apps, or even the whole computer, can get damaged and stop working. This can result in the additional cost of repairing your computer as well as the live streaming apps and software.
How can you get malware from streaming content?
Malware is often disguised in filenames. Illegally downloading music or movies, installing pirated programs such as games can earn you a virus in no time.
If you choose to install a program that does not come from its original store, malware can contact your data and spread, deleting, or using your information in the process. Find out more about most often mistakes that lead to viruses.
If malware enters your wireless network, it can infect all the devices using it – including the devices you use for finances. Your personal information can be stolen and you will have unpaid checks and unfamiliar bills in no time.
Pop-up windows and ads are best to avoid in any way you can, so consider installing some protection such as Adblock Plus.
Examples of malware you risk getting from streaming content
There are many examples of malware your computer and even your phone is vulnerable to. You’ve probably heard of Trojans and Worms, but there are many more. We will list some of them and explain the differences.
Ransomware, for example, prevents you from accessing your data until you pay the ransom. It is pretty self-explanatory. You still, however, may not be able to access data that was taken from you since it is now encrypted.
Spyware, on the other hand, tracks your online presence. It steals information without you knowing. This means all your passwords, numbers, and pins are available to someone else. Spyware can infect your phone as well.
Trojan, as the name says, offers something you think you want and inserts itself in different games or apps. It is often hard to find and trace.
Worms infect your computer using improper or vulnerable spots in your software. They can steal data and operate similarly to Ransomware.
Steps you can take to prevent getting malware from streaming content
First of all, quit using sites that are illegal. Don’t download from sketchy sites or click on random ads. However, there is software that can protect you from these threats.
You can use antivirus protection and a firewall, as well as get antispyware software. Make sure all protection forms are updated at all times. Go to your browser settings and strengthen your security. Refuse to use sites you don’t trust or seem questionable. Do not open mail or spam that seems untrustworthy and delete them immediately.
Take precautions when downloading software and only download it from sites you already know are trustworthy.
Avoid downloading pirated software. It will probably only hurt you in the long run.
Steps to prevent getting malware from using live streaming software or hardware
When it comes to live streaming, there are many threats and dangers lurking. Infected websites can be recommended in YouTube video descriptions or comments – which we often see as spam messages.
Sports streaming websites are filled with ads that can be very annoying. Not only that, but they can also contain viruses as well. If you are using websites for movie watching, avoid phishing scams, and do not use illegal streaming sites.
Free movie websites, besides being illegal, also tend to flood you with unnecessary intrusive ads. A solution is to install an ad blocker to prevent opening them in the first place.
Do not click on pop-up windows no matter how tempting they might be. Think about it, if you never applied for a reward – you are not getting it. What you are getting is malware.
How to recover if your device was infected with malware?
In most cases, your computer can be recovered. Some of your data can, unfortunately, be permanently lost in the process. Programs can be lost as well. Make sure you have a backup for the most important files.
If your computer is already infected, do not use your antivirus program to scan it – it hasn’t noticed the virus in the first place or it wasn’t updated. Use a different scanner for a malware check.
Enter safe mode on your computer and troubleshoot. You can restart your computer in safe mode and stay disconnected from the internet. Delete all temporary files. You will most likely still be able to download a virus scanner since you are working in a safe mode.
After that, run the scan and, if needed – contact an IT expert to delete the virus manually. Sometimes there is little to be done and in some cases, you will have to buy a new computer. It depends on the damage malware has done. This is why it is so important to be prepared rather than to treat malware once has it already infected your software.
To put it simply, educate yourself. Computers and other devices are very convenient and fun. But, as we have discovered, there are potential dangers, and you can indeed get a virus from live streaming.
Ensure you have good anti-virus software installed on your devices and you will decrease the chances of getting malware.