Security specialist Bitdefender warns of a rapid increase in YouTube stream-jacking attacks that involve either re-directing followers of a popular channel or taking full control of it.
The goal of the stream-jackers is usually to trick viewers into sending cryptocurrency.
In channel impersonation attacks, the criminals set up YouTube livestream pop-ups in followers’ feeds that promote generally the same content as the real channel. The pop-up livestreams are usually looped re-broadcasts that contain an embedded scam either via backlink or QR code to a phishing or fraudulent website.
Bitdefender believes that the number of livestream pop-ups observed means the operation is probably automated.
Account takeover attacks involve sending bogus emails to the owners of popular YouTube channels. These emails usually offer collaboration opportunities or are copyright infringement notices.
An associated document is presented as being essential to the proposition or complaint, but is in fact malware that steals the data needed to access the YouTube account even if two-factor authentication is used. The real owner is usually locked out of their account.
Content published by the attackers usually relates to Tesla or other Elon Musk ventures (sometimes using deepfakes), and often includes a QR code that leads to a phishing or fraudulent website.
Among the tricks used by the criminals is to restrict comments to those who have been subscribed to the channel 10 or 15 years (thus reducing the risk that people who recognise the scam will warn other viewers), and using Cloudflare to protect their websites (making automated analysis harder).
An added danger for channel operators is that if YouTube detects the malicious activity, the channel will be deleted completely, losing the videos, playlists, views, subscribers, monetisation and so on, although that may be avoided if they contact YouTube.
Bitdefender’s analysis of the attacks and tips for users and channel owners are presented here.
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