It's Free for a Reason: Exploring the Ecosystem of Free Live Streaming Services presented at NDSS 2016

by Christophe Huygens, Wouter Joosen, Nick Nikiforakis, M. zubair Rafique, Tom Van Goethem,

Summary : Recent years have seen extensive growth of services enabling free broadcasts of live streams on the Web. Free live streaming services (FLIS) attract millions of viewers and a torrent of infringements of digital copyright laws. Despite the immense popularity of these services, little is known about the actors that facilitate it and maintain webpages to index links for free viewership.
This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the FLIS ecosystem by mapping all parties involved in the delivery of pirated content, discovering their modus operandi, and quantifying the consequences for common Internet users who utilize these services. We develop infrastructure that enables us to perform more than 850,000 visits by identifying 5,685 free live streaming domains, and analyze more than 1 Terabyte of traffic to map the actors that constitute the FLIS ecosystem. On the one hand, our analysis reveals that users of FLIS websites are generally exposed to deceptive advertisements, malware, malicious browser extensions, and fraudulent scams. On the other hand, we find that FLIS actors are often reported for copyright law violations and host their infrastructure predominantly in Europe and Belize. At the same time, we encounter substandard advertisement set-ups by the FLIS actors, along with noticeable trademark infringements through domain names and logos of popular TV channels.
Given the magnitude of the discovered abuse, we engineer features that characterize FLIS pages and build a classifier to efficiently identify FLIS pages with high accuracy and low false positives, in an effort to help human analysts identify malicious services and initiate content-takedown requests.