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The allure of streaming free movies and TV shows to your heart’s content is not an easy feature to ignore. Movies and TV show box sets can get pretty pricey, and streaming services don’t always offer what you’re looking for.

You fire up your favorite browser and go hunting for what you want only to get tangled in a web (no pun intended) of lies. You now have a virus. Don’t feel so bad; it happens to hundreds of people and usually, a virus can be removed with a good virus protection program.

That’s not to say every “free” streaming site is full of viruses. In fact, there’s dozens of websites out there that operate quite well and have a great reputation. However, those websites tend to have short shelf lives and there are very few good ones anyway.

The problem is many of these “free” streaming sites are looking to plant your computer or device full of viruses for reason only they understand. They phish for personal information, credit card information, even your social security number or they’re simply looking to mess with you. They operate out of, sometimes obscure, countries with legal regulations and laws that are incredibly lax or just straight up non-existent.

It’s safe to say you’re keeping a can of worms dangerously close when you’re visiting free streaming websites.

How It’s Done

When you visit websites, any website, you’ll notice some kind of advertising. Websites that are legally allowed to stream movies and TV shows, you’ll also notice that advertising tends to be of other legitimate sites and services. The chances of seeing some kind of sketchy advertising on legitimate websites is next to zero. Legitimate sites aren’t interested in advertising unsavory products and services, nor do they want their name painted onto an illegitimate site.

Clicking on any of these ads–which isn’t recommended by any means–you’ll get flooded with pop-ups that want you to download their program or buy their product or give them your name and number because you won a free car or computer. Their predatory tactics know no bounds.

A common tactic is hiding an ad over a video player. If you’re on a free streaming website and click the “play button,” rather than the movie or TV show playing, instead, you get an ad shoved in your face, usually accompanied by flashing lights and sounds.

Oftentimes you’ll get ones that say, “Your computer is infected. Click here now!” Don’t believe any of it. What they want you to do is click on their ad so they can infect your computer or device. The irony is not lost.

Common Misconceptions

There is a common narrative among the uninformed that VPNs protect you from viruses and malware. They don’t. In fact, some VPN services throw ads at you and even sell your private data to data collectors. In that aspect, they’re almost as bad as viruses and malware. However, this is true for free VPN services. The reason they get away with being free is because of advertisement.

Paid VPNs are great for keeping your private data from falling into the hands of some faceless hacker. And it’s very possible that’s where the misconception arises. Being infected with a virus or malware doesn’t mean a hacker is on the other end. And there is the distinction between a free VPN and a paid VPN.

To be clear, VPNs do not protect you from viruses and malware. What a VPN will do is encrypt your data and keep hackers from snagging your precious, and very personal, information.

Avoiding Viruses and Malware

Your first step into virus protection is to log out of every website you use, and uncheck “Remember me.” This is an invitation for malware. It might be slightly inconvenient to have to login every time you want to use your email or social media account, but it’s better than letting a complete stranger catalog your personal information.

Your next step is to, of course, avoid the allure of free streaming websites. Anything that offers services you typically pay for–for free–replace “free” with “virus breeding grounds.” There isn’t a movie or TV show in the world that’s worth risking your computer, phone and personal information over.

Your best tactic against viruses is to invest in an antivirus program. And it’s highly recommended you buy one anyway, even if you aren’t streaming free movies from sketchy websites, or reputable ones for that matter.

There’s plenty of antivirus software to choose from. To name a few there’s: Bitdefender, Norton, and McAfee, to name a few and that’s just a drop in the bucket. Like the free streaming websites out there, it’s best to be cautious of free antivirus software as well, no matter how reputable some can be. That’s one less program dropping viruses and malware on your computer.

Every download you allow gets filtered through an antivirus program, even downloads you’re about to make. If the antivirus software is good enough, it’ll find any malware hidden inside. This goes for your entire computer. Files that are currently on your computer get scanned regularly in the unlikely event that a virus slipped past.

And even better, antivirus software is constantly updated. People can be clever and find ways to bypass antivirus software, but the minds behind the software are just as clever, creating the updates that protect from new forms of viruses and malware in general.

Bottom Line

What you should take away from this is: free streaming websites, while sounding great on paper, are often more trouble than they’re worth.

Computers cost hundreds of every currency out there and taking the chance to see a movie on websites like that may end up costing you an entire computer. That’s more than the movie’s worth. In the end, you pay more and the virus pays nothing.