Types of Illegal Websites

Jennifer Betts
forbidden website page

You were just perusing the internet, and suddenly a warning appears on your screen. You have entered forbidden territory on the net. However, not all illegal websites come with a warning label. There are some illegal sites that you might use every day and not even realize they are prohibited. To help you wade through the murky waters of forbidden web pages, you should know how to spot bootleg, phishing, stolen goods, and illegal porn sites.

Bootleg Websites

Who wants to pay for movies or music when you can watch or listen to them for free? However, some movie and music streaming sites are illegal. Here's why:

Copyrighted Material

Downloading or uploading copyrighted material that you haven't paid for is illegal. If you download a movie to your computer for free that is still in theaters, chances are the content you are downloading is copyrighted. By the same token, downloading that new album from your favorite band can also be illegal if you are infringing on the copyright. However, this does get a bit murky. Streaming movies for your own personal enjoyment is legal but downloading even part of a movie or showing it to a group would qualify as illegal due to copyright laws.

Special Cases

It should be noted that there are some instances where movies and songs can be downloaded for free legally. For example, older movies in the public domain are free to download. There are also legal sites that hold a license which allows users to download content for free legally. Additionally, some music artists may allow their work to be downloaded legally to promote their albums.

Recognizing Bootleg Sites

While it might seem hard to recognize a legit from an illegal site, here are a few tips on how to identify one:

  • Lack of an about page. Most illegal sites will not offer you a way to contact them.
  • Disclaimer at the bottom of the screen that states the site does not store files or that the content is distributed by third parties. This allows the site to provide you with the content without breaking the copyright infringement since they are not distributing the material.
  • No link to licensing information.

Phishing Sites

A phishing site is a website that is created to mimic a legitimate website and works to steal a person's personal and financial data. According to ZDNet, nearly 1.4 million of these websites are created monthly, making this big business for hackers. The reason these sites are illegal is plain to see - they steal a person's personal information (passwords, financial information, etc.) for malicious reasons.

Spotting Phishing Sites

While phishing websites make it their job to fool you, there are a few tells if you know what to look for.

  • Study the URL before clicking. There might be some unnecessary words that send up some red flags.
  • After clicking, look at the URL again. Again, look for strange or unnecessary words in the URL to jump out at you.
  • Look for the organization's details in the status bar. This can be a big giveaway to reveal if you are looking at a fake site or a legit one.
  • Find the Trust Seal. These seals can help to assure you that a site is legal.

Stolen Goods Websites

It happens to the best of us. If you come across a website with deals that seem too good to be true, then chances are they are. According to the CNBC, about 61 percent of the 76 percent loss at retailers is going to be 'e-fenced' or sold online. While it might seem like common sense, these websites selling stolen goods are illegal because of the means that was used to acquire the goods - stealing. While you might see stolen goods on auction and classified ads, like Craigslist or eBay, there are sites dedicated to selling stolen goods.

Too Good to Be True

How to do you avoid buying illegal goods? There are a few telltale signs that your newest acquisition might be stolen.

  • Lack of information in the about page, generic information, and no contact page are all suspicious for a shopping site.
  • Prices that are abnormally low or seem too good to be true should be a red flag that the item(s) might be stolen.
  • Items that are listed with a stock image rather than the actual image could be a red flag, especially if it is a new or new in-the-box item.
  • Lack of serial numbers or other specifics about the item. These items might have a generic description.
  • Unlimited quantities available at very low prices.

Pornography

Pornography websites in and of themselves are not illegal. However, it is illegal to make pornography available to those under 18. Additionally, child pornography is illegal in all forms. However, the internet makes it easy for minors to stumble onto porn, even unintentionally.

How to Spot Illegal Pornography

Spotting illegal porn isn't always easy. Additionally, it can be hard to ensure that minors don't find it. However, there are a few ways to identify illegal sites.

  • Be aware of what you are clicking on. Clicking on the wrong link could result in malware, which could unintentionally get you to the wrong site.
  • Be wary of Tor-based porn sites. Most illegal pornography sites are Tor-based (free privacy software). Therefore, most people have to seek them out, but you can't be too careful.
  • While this doesn't help to identify illegal porn, you can keep porn out of the hands of minors by using browser filters.

The Sneaky Web

Illegal websites are out there, whether it is phishing sites that steal your information or illegal porn sites. Avoiding them can be impossible in some instances, but there are steps you can take to ensure you don't end up somewhere you shouldn't. If you do stumble onto an illegal site, you can take action and report it.

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Types of Illegal Websites