Caution advised as illegal World Cup streaming mushrooms in Vietnam

By Luu Quy   November 23, 2022 | 07:34 pm PT
It's not difficult to watch World Cup matches online for free these days, but industry insiders say such viewers should be careful.

With the football World Cup underway, the number of fans looking to watch the matches online for free has increased significantly. Keywords related to World Cup matches and online streaming platforms have been in the top 20 most searched content daily since Nov. 20.

In addition to legal and copyrighted broadcasting services, football viewers in Vietnam are presented with many illegal services, but these pose security issues, experts say.

Tuan Kien from the northern province of Vinh Phuc said he usually watched football matches online and has been doing the same with the World Cup.

In most cases, he chooses illegal sites so he can watch the matches for free.

Kien said it was not difficult to find such sites.

"I would tap sites that appear first. They are easy to find and do not request any sign in, like pay TV services," he said.

A site broadcasting a World Cup match illegally on November 22, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy

A site broadcasting a World Cup match illegally along with gambling ads on November 22, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy

Among the top sites to watch football illegally are xoilac, socolive and vebo.

The operators of these sites steal the content from foreign sources, then insert the site's logo as well as advertising images for football betting services.

"The general method of these websites is to steal TV copyrights, 'push' the search engine optimization (SEO) to the top on Google to attract traffic, and then receive ads for gambling and fraud channels," said Ngo Minh Hieu, an expert with the National Cyber Security Center.

Hieu said besides advertising gambling and illegal services, such sites also lure users into downloading malicious software.

Ads are often placed densely and pop-up frames appear even during the view process, suggesting that users click them in order to continue watching.

Vietnam has detected and blocked sites broadcasting pirated content several times, including sites streaming movies, but because only the domain name is blocked, the operators of such sites only need to create a new domain name to bring them back to life.

In the third quarter of 2022, the Ministry of Information and Communications blocked a series of websites as they provided advertising content for betting and various other forms of gambling.

However, these sites were up and running again very soon with just a few characters in their domain names changed.

In addition to the web version, some also release apps to avoid blocking.

Hieu said xoilac used to advertise a site called "wolcup20," which actually aimed to spread malware.

In addition to information security issues, pirated websites also directly affect fans' opportunities to watch international tournaments in the future.

As an agency that buys the rights to broadcast many major tournaments in Vietnam, FPT Play said that websites broadcasting content illegally inflict significant losses.

"We also have to face charges of violating copyright protection obligations, which means we will encounter more difficulties in negotiating with partners in the future. When this happens, the audience will be directly affected, losing the chance to watch legal, good quality broadcasts of movies and sports events," said To Nam Phuong, deputy general director of FPT Play.

Phuong called for plans to coordinate with network operators to shorten the time taken to block pirated websites and applications, and impose sanctions on businesses that advertise on pirated broadcasting sites.

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