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More than 700 fake Netflix websites appear as streaming soars in lockdown

24 April 2020 - 13:59 By Nivashni Nair
The fake websites appear almost identical to the legitimate ones to trick unsuspecting users.
The fake websites appear almost identical to the legitimate ones to trick unsuspecting users.
Image: supplied

While streaming services have become the go-to source of entertainment for many people during the national lockdown, hackers are creating counterfeit sites to harvest personal information from users.

Cybersecurity company Mimecast found more than 700 suspicious domains impersonating Netflix alone in just one week during the lockdown.

These websites appear almost identical to the legitimate ones to trick unsuspecting users.

Mimecast cyber security expert Brian Pinnock said: "Since the start of the lockdown, we have detected a dramatic rise in suspicious domains impersonating a range of streaming services. Criminals pretending to be legitimate brands have developed fake websites offering free access to services such as Netflix.

"Users are asked to share information such as names, addresses, passwords and even credit card details which criminals then use for monetary gain. Because people typically reuse passwords across multiple sites, criminals can test the username and password combinations across sites, looking to access information for monetary purposes.

"Our advice to consumers it to take great care with sites purporting to offer free access to services that usually carry a fee. As a general rule, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

He said criminals "pretty much have keys to the kingdom" if they gain access to a user's data.

"Depending on the nature of the personal data - names, surnames, email addresses, even passwords and credit card details - fraudsters can use the information to engage in a range of fraudulent activities. Since many consumers reuse email addresses and passwords across multiple sites, cyber criminals will try to access other services and accounts using the credentials they have harvested to take over these accounts and send malicious emails from your accounts, steal air miles, or channel funds to their bank accounts," Pinnock said.

He said although Netflix does not disclose actual subscription numbers for countries, there are estimated to be more than 330,000 South African subscribers.

On its website, Netflix warns consumers to be aware of phishing scams.

The warning reads: "Phishing is an attempt to acquire your personal information by pretending to represent a website or company you trust online. Phishers will go to great lengths to try to take over your account or steal your personal information. They may create fake websites that look like Netflix, or send emails that imitate us and ask you for personal information. Netflix will never ask for any personal information to be sent to us over e-mail."