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PewDiePie supporters target connected printers again in second hack

Second printer hack by PewDiePie

PewDiePie fans have done it again. Supporters of PewDiePie and his YouTube channel have hacked into internet-connected printers in an effort to retain the vlogger’s status as the #1 YouTuber on the planet

Piggybacking off the November attack on 50,000 printers, the hacking group reproduced the stunt over the weekend and forced an additional 80,000 printers worldwide to print a similar message.

In November, Twitter user @TheHackerGiraffe claimed responsibility for accessing 50,000 internet-connected printers. The hack forced them to print a message urging recipients to subscribe to PewDiePie’s YouTube channel and to unsubscribe from the YouTube channel belonging to Indian record label T-Series, which is rapidly closing in on the #1 spot. In addition to campaigning for the Swedish vlogger’s YouTube status, the printer hack exposed the serious vulnerabilities and security issues associated with printers connected to the internet unsecured.

Hackers have now once again remotely commandeered vulnerable internet-connected printers causing them to print unsolicited messages to unsuspecting recipients. The most recent notice alerted the recipients that PewDiePie was in danger of losing his #1 YouTube status to T-Series and needed help to remain the most subscribed channel in the world. The hackers listed the steps the recipients should take, including subscribing to PewDiePie’s channel, unsubscribing from the wildly popular Indian channel, and spreading the word to others. The latest memo added a new twist - an extra step stating, “Fix your printer. It can be abused!”

Though the original hack also alerted the recipients of the printouts to the security vulnerabilities at stake, the new hack brought further attention to the fact. Not only can hackers remotely infiltrate internet-connected printers to steal sensitive personal data, but they can also potentially cause irreparable physical damage to them.

"I've been trying to show that 'hacking' isn't a game or toy, it can have serious real-life consequences," the hacker explained in a statement to the BBC. "We really want people to pay attention to this because causing physical damage is very much a possibility."

The hacker explained that the printers' firmware could essentially force loads of data to be written onto their chips continuously, rendering the entire printer unusable. "These chips have a limited lifetime of 'writes'. If you keep the loop on enough, the chip will fry and the printer will no longer function."

“The fallout goes beyond print-outs, we could also be capturing sensitive documents as they get printed or even modify documents as they get printed,” the hacker went on to say.  

In their own way, the hackers are bringing public attention to the fact that internet-connected devices can easily be manipulated by third-party individuals. This could enable them to steal sensitive data, as well as to cause physical damage to the machines. It is becoming increasingly important for people to take stock of what devices they have connected to the internet and to be aware of the fact that these devices need protecting from online security threats. 

As well as securing your connected devices, you should also consider a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The best VPNs on the market today use military-grade encryption protocols in order to secure their users’ data and to protect their privacy online. Many are relying on VPNs to encrypt their internet traffic and keep their information out of the hands of government spies and hackers alike.  

Written by: Attila Tomaschek

Attila is a Hungarian-American currently living in Budapest. Being in the VPN game for over 5 years, along with his acute understanding of the digital privacy space enables him to share his expertise with ProPrivacy readers. Attila has been featured as a privacy expert in press outlets such as Security Week, Silicon Angle, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Examiner, Techopedia, Disruptor Daily, DZone, and more. He has also contributed bylines for several online publications like SC Magazine UK, Legal Reader, ITProPortal, BetaNews, and Verdict.


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