“Cutting the cord” is a global trend, as growing numbers of consumers move from traditional broadcasting and pay-TV to streamed content from video on demand services such as Netflix, Amazon and Showmax.

In the US, research company eMarketer says the number of adults who have cancelled their pay-TV services will climb 32,8% this year, to 33-million people.

In South Africa, research firm BMIT’s Digital Lifestyle Measure (DLM) report says that among South Africa’s DLM5 (high tech) consumers, up to 63% have DStv at home, 62% have a Netflix subscription, and 51% have a Showmax subscription. A majority, 58%, of DLM5 consumers also own a Smart TV.

There is every reason to expect South Africans to embrace streamed content as data costs drop and more consumers acquire smartphones, laptops and smart TVs. But, while streamed entertainment is a compelling proposition, there are risks involved, says Doros Hadjizenonos, regional sales director at Fortinet.

He point out that a major risk lies in downloading pirated movies and TV series. “When you download illegal content, you’d connect to a file-sharing application. File sharing through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks is commonly used for distributing malware. So not only do you not know what’s coming down the line into your own network and devices, you also open a back door into your systems.”

Even using legitimate mainstream streaming services can present risks, Hadjizenonos says. “Many people use media servers that were produced some time ago, manufactured without security a top priority, or which have not been updated regularly.

“If hackers can compromise the media server, they can access your network. This presents a risk to all the devices on your home network, and all the personal information on that network.”

In addition, the routers consumers use could also be vulnerable: earlier this year, the UK and US accused Russia of hacking potentially millions of home routers in global cyberattacks.

“And if someone has access to your network through your router, they can access the personal data on your devices, including your passwords,” Hadjizenonos says.

He says staying secure in an age of streaming means staying alert to potential risks, and ensuring that routers, gaming consoles and media servers have been secured and updated.