NordVPN puts the price tag of stolen streaming subscriptions at $38 million

Malware designed to steal log-in information saved in browsers has infected 16 million computers and swiped credentials for up to 174,800 accounts.

Hacker bug for internet protection. Computer data defense

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It can be annoying when a family member or friend changes the password on a Netflix account that you've been sharing with them. That can be fixed (usually) with a call or text to get the new password. The solution is not so easy if a cybercriminal has stolen the account credentials and changed not only the password, but the associated email address too.

NordVPN did the math on this particular type of cybertheft and found that leaked credentials for 174,800 streaming service accounts adds up to $38 million in damages.

The problem is--unsurprisingly--malware. Zeus, Pony Stealer, RedLine, Raccoon, and other types of malware are built to capture login credentials saved on computers. NordVPN found 174,800 accounts for streaming services were up for resale after being stolen by this type of malware. Thieves pay for a subscription to this kind of malware, according to NordVPN.

NordVPN worked with a third-party company specializing in data breach research to complete this analysis. They evaluated a database that contained information leaked from 16 million computers. The financial damages estimate is based on the cost of the premium plan price for the most popular streaming service over 12 months.

SEE: Identity theft protection policy (TechRepublic Premium)

NordVPN's data privacy expert Daniel Markuson warns that any user who has saved logins, a home address, or credit card information in a browser is at risk of losing this information to a thief.

"Bad actors also get information about your usernames, location, and hardware configurations and might take control over your device," Markuson said in a press release. "One day, these people will find themselves locked out of their accounts, unable to access it because the account got sold, its password changed, and the initial email associated with it replaced."

Netflix users have to deal with this problem most frequently with 61% of the stolen credentials belonging to that subscription service. Spotify and Amazon Prime are also at the top of this list representing 25% and 7% of the stolen credentials identified by NordVPN.

Markuson said in the press release that sometimes hackers share account information for free because the logins are so easy to get. Other thieves sell the accounts for half the price of the actual subscription. 

He also said that individual users need to be more vigilant about using a VPN and keeping antivirus software up to date. Users have to always be on the lookout for suspicious links that can install malware on a device. 

SEE: Cybersecurity best practices: An open letter to end users

The analysis found that this is a worldwide problem with individuals in these countries most likely to deal with this kind of theft:

Country                               Computer users affected

  1. Indonesia                        1.8 million
  2. India                                1.2 million
  3. Brazil                               1.1 million
  4. Argentina                         1.1 million
  5. Pakistan                              541,667
  6. Italy                                     516,479
  7. United States                       511,176
  8. Russia                                 487,224
  9. Philippines                          389,703
  10. Egypt                                  388,206

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...