Printers hacked in support of YouTube Celebrity

A samsung printer

writer icon Emma Egelund     Steve Buissinne   |   Tech Ethics     🕐 18. Dec. 2018

Swedish YouTube celebrity PewDiePie is at the centre of a hacker attack on internet-connected printers.

Over the past few days, several people have posted pictures online, showing what they claim to be a spontaneous printout. On the printout, a message is written.

The message urges the owner of the printer to subscribe to PewDiePie’s YouTube channel, and at the same time to unfollow a rival channel, T-Series.

Fighting for subscribers
PewDiePie, also known as Felix Kjellberg, currently has 77 million subscribers. This makes his channel the most followed in the world.

Right behind PewDiePie is an Indian music channel called T-Series. With 75 million subscribers, T-Series has seen exponential growth during 2018. If the channel continues to grow at the current rate then it could pose an imminent threat to PewDiePie.

This fact has not escaped Kjellberg. His more recent uploads include calls to action where he challenges his fans to find him more subscribers. His fans have taken this request very seriously, with one of them launching an advertising campaign across an entire city. 

Hacking to raise awareness?
Hacking into printers is taking things to a new level, one that highlights some concerning prospects. A hacker known online as TheHackerGiraffe has already claimed responsibility for the printouts and insisted that the hacking is their way of raising awareness surrounding printer security.

According to tweets from TheHackerGiraffe, the takeover was possible thanks to an open network port that exists on hundreds of thousands of printers worldwide.

The open port allows printers to receive data. It is instrumental when using a wireless connection, where items for print can be sent via the internet.

However, the open port is vulnerable, and clearly provides access to hackers who can then create prints of their own, or manipulate existing prints.

Risk of privacy breach
There is even the risk of an attack on a printer’s memory, its files and sensitive information that could be confidential.

When interviewed by The Verge, TheHackerGiraffe pointed out - “People underestimate how easy a malicious hacker could have used a vulnerability like this to cause major havoc”. 

Controversy surrounds PewDiePie
PewDiePie has courted a great deal of controversy during his career, including purported antisemitism and making racial slurs. And he is not shying away from the printer hacking scandal.

While he is not directly responsible for the hack, he has posted videos praising the efforts of his fans to keep him at the top. 

Wall Street Journal targeted
Just yesterday, 17th December 2018, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was the target of a hacker who was also operating in support of PewDiePie. The hacker hijacked a sponsored article on the online version of the WSJ. 

The article was edited into an apology towards PewDiePie, on behalf of the newspaper. The fabricated apology was based on a supposed misrepresentation of the YouTube star by the WSJ journalists.

The Wall Street Journal is seen by many PewDiePie fans as an enemy, since it led an investigation against the Swede, highlighting the controversy surrounding him.

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