With serious heavyweight backing, the new ‘BeStreamWise’ anti-piracy campaign aims to deter the use of pirate IPTV services in the UK. It deploys familiar techniques to shape public perception but right off the bat there’s an elephant in the room.
At least as far as we can determine, there have been no press releases heralding BeStreamWise, or indeed any other mainstream media efforts that could ensure maximum penetration for what is obviously an awareness campaign.
That being said, there are some indications that a short video produced by BeStreamWise has already been seen by hundreds of thousands of people. With a running time of just 15 seconds it’s certainly short, but if a campaign wanted to target social media and/or search engine users looking for something in particular, dropping in something like this would make perfect sense.
Uploaded to YouTube on September 12, the clip above already has over 484,000 views but not even one person was moved to leave a comment. The BeStreamWise channel itself has only six subscribers, but it appears that the campaign didn’t begin online.
People Love Offers Too Good to Be True
To demonstrate how easily people will hand over their personal details, BeStreamWise hired Jenny Radcliffe, aka ‘The People Hacker’.
Radcliffe lectures on topics including social engineering, frauds and con artistry. Here she plays a salesperson for a new streaming service called MalStreams, offering free lifetime subscriptions from a pop-up stand in London’s Paddington Station.
The ‘con’ strategy deployed here is simple; First, commuters’ faith in the judgment of the management team behind one of the most famous stations in the country probably precluded the possibility of a brazen, broad daylight scam.
Couple that with the unlikely scenario that scammers accepted the considerable expense and risk of selling an illegal product in a high-footfall location, the targets’ preconceptions most likely ruled an illegal product completely out. As a result, at least a handful of people liked the idea of ‘free streaming for life’ and went on to sign up to the bogus MalStreams service.
Unsurprisingly, the number of people who rejected the too-good-to-be-true offer isn’t revealed; it’s a campaign to shape public perceptions after all, not a peer-reviewed study. Those who did fill in their personal details were subjected to a clip depicting some kind of hacker attack, followed by the message: “You’ve Just Let Criminals In.”
“Streaming services offering free content from other platforms can be too good to be true and aren’t always legal. Illegal streaming can let criminals into your devices and network. Giving them access to your personal and financial information, exposing you to scams, fraud and even identity theft,” ‘subscribers’ were informed after the dust settled.
“BeStreamWise and recognize the personal dangers of illegal streaming. Find safer ways to enjoy your favorite content on BeStreamWise.com.”
The BeStreamWise Portal
The campaign portal rigidly follows current anti-piracy messaging by focusing on the four pillars of danger established over the past few years (cited verbatim).
Viruses and Malware: When accessing illegal streams, whether through free streaming sites or via apps, add-ons or devices, you are at risk of receiving malicious software. This gives criminals access to your network or your device compromising your personal data.
ID Theft, Scams, Fraud: Streaming via illegal methods puts you at risk of being exposed to fraud and data theft. This risk increases significantly when users exchange credit or debit card information to view content on unregulated and illicit websites.
Inappropriate Content: Watching content via an illicit source can expose younger viewers to age-inappropriate content. These unauthorized websites, devices, apps, add-ons, and the content they can access have no parental controls.
Funding Wider Criminality: When you use illegal streams, you risk letting criminals in. Illegal streaming services are increasingly operated by sophisticated criminal networks, often involved in other types of crime.
Who Wants Brits to BeStreamWise?
The campaign portal presents BeStreamWise as an organization made up of eight named members and possibly more. In the order they appear: Federation Against Copyright Theft, the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office, the CrimeStoppers charity, British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), Sky, Premier League, and free-to-air broadcaster, ITV.
While Sky, Premier League and ITV are well known in their own right, BASE (which used to be a member of FACT) is particularly worthy of mention.
BASE members include Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, StudioCanal, Sky Store, Virgin Media, BT TV, CrunchyRoll, Kaleidoscope, Lionsgate, Mattel, Freemantle Media, and Spirit Entertainment, the largest independent home entertainment sales and distribution company handling content for the BBC, Film4, and ITV Studios.
Members of the Irish Industry Trust For IP Awareness include Sky, Warner Bros., and Sony Pictures, and it appears the BeStreamWise campaign has already taken to the streets of Belfast. The billboard in the image above was snapped by a Reddit user in the past few days.
While there are a number of campaign participants, Sky’s involvement stands out in a number of ways.
Links in the footer of the BeStreamWise website link to terms and conditions and privacy pages on Sky websites, while the bestreamwise.com domain’s security certificate is directly linked to other Sky domains.
This could simply mean that the broadcaster’s contribution includes technical assistance but Sky UK Limited is also listed as the owner of trademark application UK00003955720. Dated September 2023, the BeStreamWise trademark covers the categories listed below.
Facts From Studies Unavailable to the Public
As one might expect, the portal also features claims from various studies, including 90% of Illegal Streaming Sites Are Classified as Risky, 32% of People Have Been Victims of Fraud, and 2.7 Million Devices Have Been Infected With Viruses.
The names of the studies are cited but beyond the curated soundbites previously offered by the industry groups that commissioned the research, the studies aren’t openly published or even made fully available on request. As previously reported, requests to see underlying research have met with obstruction, which by default casts doubt on all claims, at least until properly evidenced.
That doesn’t imply that threats don’t exist, they certainly do, but if an entire campaign is based on the existence of specific, ubiquitous threats, there can be zero harm in linking to the full studies, including the methodology.
Until then, many of the companies listed above are facing the prospect of a new round of website blocking, this time featuring their own domain. Following an allegation of spreading misinformation, bestreamwise.com has been placed on a popular DNS blocklist which aims to “keep the internet clean.”