The European Union recognizes that online piracy poses a serious threat to copyright holders and the public at large.
Last December, the EU published an updated version of its biannual piracy and counterfeiting watchlist, calling out some of the worst offenders.
“Infringements of intellectual property rights, in particular commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy, pose a serious problem for the European Union,” the EU Commission wrote.
The report explained that the unauthorized activity leads to “high financial losses” for copyright holders. Members of the public face risks too, such as piracy-related malware and scammers determined to obtain their credit card details.
Europa.eu Pirate Scammers
As the EU published these cautionary words, its flagship domain name Europa.eu was already being exploited by piracy-related scams, including the worst type – credit card phishing spam.
When we alerted the European Commission to our findings, a spokesperson informed us that the origin of the incident has been identified and that proper action had been taken to resolve the matter.
“Concerned platform stakeholders have already taken the necessary measures such as removal of suspicious files and blocking further attempts for uploading them. We are closely monitoring the situation and continue scanning websites for suspicious files,” the spokesperson said.
The Piracy Problem Persists
Despite these reassuring words and the passing of three months, the problem is yet to be solved. Basic searches reveal that Europa.eu portals have been plagued by thousands of piracy-related adverts, with new ones being added daily.
The EU hosts a broad variety of projects on its official domain and several allow outsiders to contribute content. It appears that this weakness is easily exploited, yet hard to patch.
Below is just one of the many piracy-related adverts, promoting a 123movies website where people can supposedly stream free movies.
These and other variants appear on europa.eu and subdomains including school-education.ec.europa.eu, atlantic-maritime-strategy.ec.europa.eu, esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu and more.
Like many others, the advert shown above arrives as a PDF file containing a link to the target site. In this case, the link goes to a dodgy movie platform that has absolutely nothing to do with 123movies.
Prospective pirates who click the link see a dummy streaming site, which may show short movie intros. Interestingly, the scammy streaming site appears to block certain countries but by using an American IP address, we managed to get in.
After a brief intro, users are prompted to register. We attempted to sign up but decided to abort the mission when our anti-virus software confirmed a phishing scam.
“Phishing websites persuade you to reveal personal data such as login or credit card details, usually by pretending to be a legitimate source. It uses social engineering to trick you,” the warning read.
The same scammy ads also promote specific movies, such as “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”, The same is true for popular TV-series such as HBO’s “The Last of Us”.
TorrentFreak reached out to the Commission again, to get an update on how it sees the problem, but we haven’t heard back. When we last inquired about the issue a few weeks ago, a spokesperson informed us that the EU “won’t comment any further on this matter.” (see update at the bottom.)
IPTV, UFC, and the Super Bowl
The EU must have its reasons for the lack of communication, but the spamming only appears to be getting worse. In addition to classic pirate streaming sites, shady IPTV services are advertised too.
Several ads on the Europa.eu site are linked to tv.elaalam.com, which promises access to virtually all content imaginable, including live sports. You have to pay first, of course.
Whether this is a total scam or not is irrelevant at this point. The EU previously called out pirate IPTV services and is in talks with rightsholders to better protect themselves against live streaming piracy. Inadvertently running ads for these services at the same time is not ideal.
The spam doesn’t stop at pirate IPTV services either. We’ve seen ads for scammy UFC broadcasts, Premier League matches, NBA games, NASCAR races, and even the mighty Super Bowl has a dedicated promo in Europa.eu.
Male Enhancement Gummies
By now it should be clear that there’s a spam problem, but the deeper we dig, the more dirt we encounter. Want to hack Instagram? Need a hacked Onlyfans account? Or a free cash app money generator? There’s an ad for that.
Gift cards also appear to be quite popular; Google Play, Xbox, Amazon, or Playstation, you name it. Even physical needs can be satisfied if you believe in magic.
The “CBD Male Enhancement Gummies” for “longer staying power” stood out to us in this regard; literally.
The above shows that the problem is rampant. However, it doesn’t mean that the EU is completely ignoring it. Several of the scammy ads have been removed and takedowns are ongoing.
That said, the spam avalanche is ongoing and has been for at least three months. While we were working on this article, dozens of new PDF files were uploaded.
In recent years the EU has passed legislation to ensure that large online platforms use technical tools such as upload filters to tackle online piracy. Perhaps that could be an option for Europa.eu too?
Update February 24: We received the following response from a European Commission spokesperson.
“We are aware of it and continue working to resolve it. Long-term solutions require changes in the way we enable citizens to exchange with the Commission. It is extremely difficult to proceed quickly without disrupting the services offered to European citizens.”
“We are working closely with all the concerned services to find the best solutions with the least possible disruption.”