Printers, TVs and media sites: hackers massively hack devices to support PewDiePie

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For several months he has been fighting for the title of the most popular YouTube channel, and the call to subscribe to him has become a meme.

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, 29, known by his nickname PewDiePie, has been fighting for the title of the most popular YouTube channel for several months. His main competitor is the Indian music company T-Series. At the time of this writing, the difference between the channels is approximately 900 thousand subscribers: 79.7 million for PewDiePie versus 78.8 million for T-Series.

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Every day the balance of power is changing, so Kjellberg fans staged a large-scale campaign to attract new subscribers. And in order to achieve the goal, they began to use hacking sites and devices around the world.

The standoff began in August 2018. PewDiePie has calculated that if the T-Series channel continues to gain subscribers at the same pace, it will outrun the Swede Youtuber. In October, coordinated actions by blogger fans began to preserve leadership on YouTube.

The phrase “subscribe to PewDiePie” became a meme: they began to publish it in all places where Kjellberg could find new supporters. For example, the author of the blog MrBeast bought outdoor advertising in his city with a request to subscribe to PewDiePie.

A few weeks later, a billboard with Kjellberg appeared on Times Square–one of the most expensive advertising space.

Flyers in support of the PewDiePie in Bangladesh
Banner in support of PewDiePie in Times Square
Banner in support of the PewDiePie in North Carolina

Since the end of November, hackers have joined the action. For three months they managed to be noted in three major hacks.

November 2018: Hacking Printers

In November, the owners of printers around the world began to report that their devices themselves began to print leaflets in support of PewDiePie. The message from the hacker “Giraffe” said that the blogger is losing ground in the fight against the T-Series, which means that users should urgently subscribe to Kjellberg and inform everyone they know about it.

Later, the hacker told The Verge that in this way he tried to draw the attention of users to the vulnerability of their printers. In 2017, another hacker acted in a similar way, hacking 150,000 printers using port 9100 vulnerability. The giraffe limited itself to 50,000 devices: “The worst part is that I have never cracked printers. The process from learning to downloading leaflets took me about half an hour.”

December 2018: Wall Street Journal Hacking

On December 17, unknown blogger fans hacked into the affiliate page of the Wall Street Journal website. They posted an apology on the site on behalf of the staff of the publication, who allegedly promised to sponsor PewDiePie in its fight for the title of the most popular YouTube channel.

It was with the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that Kjellberg launched anti-Semitic charges that cost the blogger large advertising contracts. The management of the publication promptly removed the appeal from the hackers and began investigating the incident.

January 2019: Hacking TVs

On January 3, a group of hackers announced that they had gained control over 100 thousand Smart TVs and 65 thousand Chromecast devices. As a result, several thousand devices began to show a video with a request to sign on PewDiePie.

The BBC has found several people who have been hacked: according to them, the TV starts to twist the video every 20 minutes, after which everything stops. Google representatives noted that they were aware of the situation, but stressed that the point is not Chromecast, but in the settings of the users’ router.

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On January 4, the hacker “Giraffe”, from which it all began, said that he would no longer engage in hacking for the sake of PewDiePie support.

“I guess there is a lesson to be learned here, don’t fly too close to the sun and then act like you don’t know you’ll get burned. Well, here I am, burned and roasted, awaiting my maybe-coming end,” HackerGiraffe wrote. “I just wanted to inform people of their vulnerable devices while supporting a YouTuber I liked. I never meant any harm, nor did I ever have any ill intentions. I’m sorry if anything I’ve done has made you feel under attack or threatened.”


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