The VICE Channels

    Is Strange Stuff in Your ‘Recently Watched’ on Netflix? You May Have Been Hacked

    Written by

    Rachel Pick


    If you’ve been seeing strange movies and TV shows show up in your “Recently Watched” on Netflix, someone may have bought access to your account. Luckily, there’s an easy fix.

    I share a Netflix account with my parents and my sister (they get my Hulu login, though, so I think we’re square). For the past couple of months, I’d noticed movies showing up under Recently Watched that I know none of us would touch with a ten foot pole. Stupidly, I dismissed this as a hiccup on Netflix’s part, until I found out the awful truth: we’d been hacked.

    It’s shameful that someone who writes about tech for a living would just let such suspicious activity slide without further investigation, but it wasn’t until I saw this Tech Insider headline that I wondered if the weirdness was more sinister than just a glitch. Motherboard’s hacking and information security reporter Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai pointed me in the direction of the website haveibeenpwned.com, where I entered my parents’ email address. Lo and behold, we’d been pwned to the max, our login info dumped in a plaintext document titled “BunchaNetflixAccounts,” along with the info from some 2400 other users. The document was posted on Pastebin, a site that temporarily stores chunks of plaintext and is primarily used by people sharing code.

    Image: Rachel Pick

    The site notes that pastebins are usually only up for a few days, but I knew this had been going on for way longer than just this month. So I went to Netflix’s site and checked the viewing activity for my profile, and sure enough there was stuff on there going back months. Curse of Chucky. The Passion of the Christ. One login thief seems to be really into drug trafficking, watching both the new Netflix original series Narcos and El Señor de los Cielos, a telenovela about a drug lord.

    The breadth of the stuff watched strongly indicates a number of different people using our account. It’s hard to believe the same person would be interested in watching Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve, Anchorman 2, and half a season of The L Word all in the same week. (If such a person indeed exists, I’d like to have a drink with them.)

    Image: Rachel Pick

    Once someone gets inside your Netflix account, there’s not a ton they can do aside from binge watch some Family Guy, because your credit card info is obscured by the site. The real danger lies in if you use your Netflix password for a bunch of other stuff too. In that case, anyone enterprising enough could do some real damage.

    So if you think you’ve been hacked, here’s what to do. Go to haveibeenpwned.com and find out if your data is out there. Change your Netflix password, and if any other accounts share that password you should change those, too. Franceschi-Bicchierai recommends using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password.

    I don’t think my family’s Netflix hack has created any other issues, but we’ll be taking better precautions from now on. Though I hate to begrudge people access to Curse of Chucky, they’ll have to find some other way to watch it.