Android and Google Play are awash with apps offering users a way to stream premium-sports channels. Be it watching football on Fox Sports or Premier League soccer on NBCSN; these sports-streaming apps want your attention.
Streaming sports apps that offer every channel for free are illegal, that’s without a doubt. Mobdro is one of the most popular apps of this type. But is Mobdro safe? How about legal? Let’s find out.
What Is a Sports-Streaming App?
First up, what is exactly is a sports-streaming app?
As it sounds, sports-streaming apps allow you to stream video to your smartphone or tablet directly. For the most part, these apps scan the internet for illegal content streams then amalgamate them into a handy app. The app lists the streams by channel, and the app users can select whatever sports content they want.
The appeal of a sports-streaming app is obvious. Subscriptions for a cable-sports channel can cost more than $30 per month, and that doesn’t guarantee you all the sports-action you crave. In fact, with a subscription to a single streaming service, you won’t even get close to seeing every game, such is the fragmentation of sports-television broadcast rights.
An app that lets you stream whatever game, from whatever channel, from any sport has an instant market, then. Enter Mobdro.
Is Mobdro Safe?
There are two vital questions that every sports-streaming app must answer. Is the app safe? Is the content legal? For the most part, the second question answers itself. An app offering every sports channel for free isn’t providing you a legal content stream. However, the first question isn’t as easy to answer. Just because an app provides illegal content, does that make it unsafe automatically?
Mobdro is one of the most popular sport streaming apps. It has millions of downloads, spreading across all four corners of the globe. But is Mobdro safe?
A 2019 Digital Citizens Alliance report [PDF] carried out in conjunction with the network security company, Dark Wolfe Consulting, doesn’t think so. The report looks at the so-called “Dark Web of Entertainment” and how these apps are exposing unsuspecting users to dangerous malware, security backdoors, and much more.
One of the app names that appear most in the report is Mobdro. The Mobdro app caught the eye of the researchers for a few negative reasons:
- Once installed, the Mobdro app forwarded the researcher’s Wi-Fi network name and password to a remote server.
- Malware found in the app probed the researcher’s network, searching for vulnerabilities that “would enable it to access files and other devices.” The app also attempted to access media content and other legitimate apps on the researcher’s test device.
- The app uploaded data from the researcher’s device, using over 1.5TB of data.
- At times, the Mobdro app displayed “lure” ads that instruct users to download other apps that also contain malware.
Also, as soon as the Mobdro app installs, it forces an update. The research team notes that after this update completes, the Mobdro app begins seeking access to other media content and other apps on the device.
“After the initial update, the device accepted commands from a threat actor. Those commands may come from the app itself or from the movie streams. With each selection of content, the user opens the door to a new set of commands and malicious payloads from a threat actor to a device in use.
“This could include anything from commands to perform an update to pull down more malware, to participate in a DDoS attack, or to pull items stored on the device— like pictures, movies, documents—or any similar content available on devices connected to a network.”
Mobdro’s Mitigating Circumstances?
The Mobdro EULA states:
“Mobdro is an application for Android devices that enables users to crawl the web for free streams, arrange them by category and capture them in order to watch them. Mobdro has no control whatsoever nor may it be held liable for the content or location of the streams, which shall be the sole responsibility of the pages on which they are hosted. Furthermore, Mobdro may not be held liable for any failures in the display of content, Internet connections, viruses, etc. that may pose a threat to your device.”2019 Mobdro EULA
In other words, the content found using the Mobdro app is not the responsibility of Mobdro. However, Mobdro’s content isn’t the issue—it’s all obviously illegal, whatever happens. The second part of the statement, which regards viruses and malware, is more concerning.
The Mobdro EULA contains other important information regarding in-app advertising. If the user declines the option to watch Mobdro apps, they’ll inadvertently sign-up to the Luminati network. Never heard of the Luminati network? It is a notorious data-gathering and proxy service that allows other people to use your connection as theirs. While this can have very benign uses, it explains the considerable (1.5TB) of data use exposed by the research document.
Another consideration is where the researchers downloaded their Mobdro app. You would assume that the researchers found the official Mobdro site. Due to the popularity of the Mobdro app and the fact you cannot download it from the official Google Play app store, countless sites are offering the Mobdro app for download. There is every chance that some of these third-party sites repackage the Mobdro app with malware or other nasties and then publish them for download.
Are Sports-Streaming Apps Legal?
Some sports-streaming apps are legal, that’s for sure. These are channel or service-specific apps usually. For example, in the UK, you can download and stream live soccer using the official BT Sport or Sky Sports apps—if you have a subscription.
Other readers will be familiar with DAZN, the streaming app which allows you to watch football, soccer, motor racing, boxing, and many more sports—crucially, with a legal subscription.
Apps like Mobdro absolve themselves of responsibility for their illegal streams through the EULA, passing the responsibility for using these illegal streams onto the user. In that, Mobdro users (and users of similar sports-streaming apps) should research the legal consequences of using such an app.
And then, on top of those issues, you run the risk of picking up malware. Remember: using the Mobdro app means you have to turn off Google’s integrated security checks for malicious software.
VPN Proof does not condone the use of illegal streams. There is always a legal alternative. But if you are going to stream illegal content, you should check out the best no-log VPN providers. I’d also advise you to find out about VPN kill switches, as an extra precaution.
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