Image: Kaspersky

Superhero film “Black Widow” is finally getting its official release on July 9, and Kaspersky is warning that scammers are using the highly anticipated movie as a way to make off with watcher’s credit card information and commit other cybercrimes.

Marvel superhero films are arguably some of the hottest movies in the world, and none is currently hotter than “Black Widow,” which has had its release pushed repeatedly back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally slated for release on May 1, 2020, then Nov. 6, 2020, and then May 7, 2021, before finally getting its (presumably) final release date of July 9.

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With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, Disney is premiering “Black Widow” in theaters and online, which Kaspersky said has been used repeatedly throughout the film’s delayed release cycle by cybercriminals to take advantage of those hoping to get an early or less-than-legal look.

“We have observed intensified scamming activities around ‘Black Widow,’ the release of which fans all over the world have been eagerly anticipating for a long time. In their excitement to watch the long-awaited movie, viewers have become inattentive to the sources they use, and this is exactly what fraudsters benefit from. These attacks are preventable, and users should be alert to the sites they visit,” said Kaspersky security expert Anton V. Ivanov.

Kaspersky noted spikes in phishing attempts and malicious downloads for the film that coincided with the historic release schedule of “Black Widow.” Spikes in June and July 2020 and March and April 2021 accompanied supposed release dates, and June 2021 turned into another spike that continues to trend into July.

A common tactic used by cybercriminals has been to show the first few minutes of the movie before asking users to register to see the rest. Registration requires giving over personal information including name, country of residence, postal code and credit card information, after which the movie doesn’t continue to play despite money being deducted.

Aside from phishing, scammers have also been trying to pass off executable files as downloads of the film. Never open a file that purports to be a movie but has an extension like .EXE or .MSI, Kaspersky warns. Films typically have extensions like .MP4, .MOV, .M4P, .AVI or .WMV, to name a few.

Kaspersky also warns users to pay close attention to the address of the websites they’re using to watch or download movies. Double-check URLs to ensure there aren’t any hard-to-miss changes that indicate a fake domain used for phishing, and be sure to have an anti-malware solution installed that includes detection of phishing sites.

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It’s also not a bad idea to avoid the temptation of sites promising early previews or leaked copies. While it’s always possible the movie has leaked early, the chance is good that websites hosting it aren’t the most trustworthy, and even those hosting a real copy may be doing something else behind the scenes to infect your computer or steal personal information.