If you’re going to illegally download a torrent copy of “Grand Theft Auto 5” or Adobe Photoshop, at least try not to do it at the office. Those two titles are the most popular among pirates who use their corporate internet to download games and applications, making it more likely that users will unwittingly infect their employer’s network with malicious software.
Such are the findings of a report released Thursday by BitSight Insight (PDF), which assesses the cybersecurity preparedness at over 30,000 companies. Researchers found that 43 percent of the applications and 39 percent of the games available for free download on peer-to-peer piracy sites also come attached with malicious software.
“Grand Theft Auto 5” was followed by “The Sims 4,” “Mortal Kombat X,” “FIFA 15” and “The Witcher” as the most downloaded games, respectively. Microsoft Office torrents were second to “Adobe Photoshop,” followed by Microsoft Windows 8.1, Microsoft Windows 7 and then Microsoft Windows 10. Employees in the education industry were the most frequent downloaders, followed by tourism/hospitality, government/politics and the energy sector.
“Many organizations explicitly ban this activity, yet there is evidence that in some industries over a quarter of companies are currently sharing files over the BitTorrent protocol,” the report explained. “While some of these files are likely legitimate, many of are labeled as movies, games and other copyrighted material.”
Games and software are particularly dangerous because, unlike video or music files, they contain executable files. Executable files authorize a user’s computer to automatically perform tasks and other functions without the user’s involvement. Instead of just booting up a video game’s menu screen, for example, a user could also be opening the door to his or her company's payroll information.
Adobe Photoshop and “Grand Theft Auto 5” have been a fixture on torrent websites for years, even after Adobe announced it would switch to a subscription plan to combat piracy. A cursory search of the Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents reveals hundreds of illicit files being spread by thousands of users, presumably located throughout the world.