Showbox clones unsafe to use without a VPN

In the past couple of weeks both Showbox and it’s popular iOS counterpart Moviebox have stopped working. As is nearly always the case when popular streaming websites and services go down - their disappearance has been met with a sudden influx of cloned versions of the app.

So are these new versions of Showbox legitimate replacements? Or are they dubious and insecure clones that should be avoided?

The first thing to remember is that Showbox and Moviebox do not just forward people to file hosting links. Instead (like Popcorn Time) the apps also invisibly connect users to torrent repositories to temporarily download and watch content in the app. This is problematic because in many countries ISPs monitor traffic in search of people illegally downloading movies via BitTorrent. 

Copyright holders work alongside ISPs to discover pirates and follow up with prospective invoicing letters. Those letters warn pirates that they have been busted - invoicing them for anything between $150 and $300 - with the threat that nonpayment will lead to further action in court. 

One famous case of prospective invoicing involved Dallas Buyers Club LLC (DBC) back in 2015. At that time, a law firm working on behalf of DBC and Voltage Pictures invoiced suspected pirates from a number of countries including Denmark, Spain, and Australia.

Showbox clones require a VPN

IP Address tracking?

Fast forward to May of this year when a group of independent movie studios, including DBC, Cobbler Nevada, and Bodyguard Productions (to name a few) began targeting websites believed to be behind Showbox. 

In September, this action was swiftly followed by a DMCA notice forcing Cloudflare to disclose the identities of individuals and websites linked to Showbox. Since then, the original Showbox has gone offline, and according to TorrentFreak, there are plenty of reasons to be suspicious about the various clones that have appeared in its wake. 

First and foremost, it is important to remember that the film companies behind Showbox’ closure are all known to have previously carried out prospective invoicing. This raises alarm bells because a number of the websites that used to provide content for Showbox are now displaying the following warning:

Showbox warning

The mention of IP addresses being monitored is enough to trigger alarm bells - because it isn’t crazy to presume that there may be another round of prospective invoicing coming up in the near future. 

Just scaremongering?

It is true that both the warnings on Showbox-affiliated websites and prospective invoicing letters are considered by many people to be scaremongering tactics. It is very rare for pirates to actually end up in court, and it is fair to say that movie studios do prey on people's fears and paranoia in order to make a small percentage of pirates pay up the initial fine.  

With that said, there are legitimate concerns that the recent spurt of Showbox clones may in some way be affiliated with copyright holders. If that is the case, it is possible that the app is being used to help filmmakers create a database of possible IP addresses for future invoicing. And, copyright holders are definitely getting braver, and more forceful in their tactics as time goes on

With that in mind, it would seem generally a bad idea to go anywhere near Showbox variants - especially without the use of a strong and secure VPN.

Confusion and misdirection

What is troubling, is that many people asking questions online don’t seem to know where they got their version of the Showbox app from in the first place. That means it is possible that large numbers of users have already downloaded a problematic clone of the original service. 

After all, pressure has been mounting on Showbox since way back in May. That gives people at least a seven-month window in which they could theoretically have been downloading a compromised version of Showbox.

TorrentFreak warns that:

“Several times in the past few months we’ve been asked by random emailers to ‘update’ our old Showbox (and indeed TerrariumTV) articles with new links to what they claimed to be the original apps.

“There seems little doubt that this was an attempt to misdirect, so unlike some other news outlets who did change their links, we ignored the requests. We don’t know whether this was simply an attempt to drive more traffic to ‘safe’ clones, websites offering the original, or whether something more sinister was at play.”

All in all, it seems only fair to warn users that there seems to be plenty of reasons to stay away from Showbox. And, if anybody does decide to continue using a Showbox variant - great care should be taken to conceal their IP address with the use of a VPN for Torrenting. Failure to do so could result in a nasty surprise further down the line. 

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 


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