The long-awaited reunion of the Friends cast is finally here, more than a year after it was first announced.
Friends: The Reunion aired on HBO Max in the US and on Sky One and Now in the UK – all of which are subscription services.
This has led to free online streams spreading illegally across the internet, often shared on social media and in dedicated forums to allow viewers to bypass paywalls to watch the show without paying.
Online search trends show that fans have been looking for ways to watch a free stream of the Friends Reunion online, pushing traffic towards file hosting sites like Putlocker, as well as torrent indexes like The Pirate Bay.
“The Friends reunion will likely be the TV event of the year, if not the decade. Viewers and fans who have been waiting for almost 20 years for this could be tempted to turn to illegal streams or piracy to make sure that they don’t miss out,” Kieron Sharp, CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), told The Independent.
“Since Friends last aired there has been an explosion in ways for consumers to watch movies and TV but not going to legitimate sources to watch the latest TV is not a grey area: it is against the law. As well as being illegal, evidence shows that streaming pirated content is incredibly risky and can expose users to malware and inappropriate content. Not only does that deny the best viewing experience, but it’s also just not worth taking the chance.”
These cyber risks have increased and evolved with the rise of online piracy in recent years, ranging from ransomware that hijacks a victim’s device, to phishing attacks designed to empty their bank accounts.
“The adage that attackers follow the targets never gets old,” said Tim Erlin, an executive at the cyber security firm Tripwire.
“With a massive increase in people consuming digital content from home, it’s no surprise that attackers have taken aim at this target rich environment. There are nearly infinite ways to get a victim to click on something, and attackers will always evolve to try new, and even return to old, means if they think they might be effective.”
Despite the piracy warnings, there are legitimate ways to watch the Friends Reunion for free online, you can find out more here.