Back to the Future 2: Gasp! America's trade watchdog discovers the risks of 'free' movies

Did you know that downloaded files from the internet contain malware?

You may want to sit down for this. Did you know that movie files downloaded for free from the internet may contain malware?

You did? Well it was news to US trade watchdog the FTC's assistant director Will Maxson, who published a whole blog post about this shocking revelation on Thursday.

Will was also shocked to discover it wasn't just films either: it could be "popular TV shows, big-league sports, and absorbing games." He warns that "Sites offering free content often hide malware that can bombard you with ads, take over your computer, or steal your personal information."

Mr Maxson, being the professional he is, didn't just take this on trust either – he did the legwork. "We recently downloaded movies from five sites that offered them for free. In all five cases, we ended up with malware on our computer. Generally, it served up a slew of unwanted ads."

This is going to come as somewhat of a shock to anyone who hasn't connected to the internet in the past decade. But while he's getting up to date, Will also shares another revelation: those downloaded files? They're probably illegal.

Yeah that's right, you heard us: illegal. As in, against the law.

And – goddamn! – what's this? Will warns that if you enter your credit card details while trying to grab some of this content, you may end up with extra charges.

The lowdown from the FTC: "It's not a good idea to give your credit card number to a site offering illegally downloaded content. They're run by 'pirates,' not legit businesspeople, and you can't trust them with your financial information."

Well, thank god that the FTC is here to protect us, riding the cutting edge of technology like a sheriff in the Wild West, always ready to keep us little folk informed of any threats.

Tune in next week when Will is going to share with us what he discovered when he typed the phrase "eager beaver" into one of those new-fangled search engines. ®

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