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The YouTube star and the printer hack

A fan of YouTube star PewDiePie hacked 50,000 printers worldwide over the weekend, in an attempt to boost subscribers of the channel.

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PewDiePie became the most-subscribed user on YouTube in 2013

The hacker, only identified on Twitter as TheHackerGiraffe, targeted 50,000 out of a potential 800,000 vulnerable printers in a hack that saw them print unsolicited ‘propaganda’, encouraging people to subscribe to PewDiePie.

The Swedish YouTuber, real name Felix Kjellberg, is the highest paid YouTuber in the world and is currently embroiled in a battle to keep his spot at the top. Another channel called T-Series, an Indian record label and film company, rose in popularity a few months ago and now boasts over 73m subscribers, trailing behind PewDiePie who currently has 316,884 more subscribers.

News of the hack came via Twitter when people’s printers started printing messages, asking people to unsubscribe from the Bollywood channel and subscribe to PewDiePie instead, in a stunt that has exposed the vulnerability of printing networks across the world. One man from Washington, US tweeted that the file had come through the ticket printer for the police station next door.

The message that came out of thousands of hacked printers. Danny Boitano/Twitter

The hacker came up with the idea when browsing a website called Shodan, a search engine for Internet-connected devices. They said after learning about the three printing protocols (IPP, LPD, JetDirect) they were “horrified” to find over 800,000 open printers show up on the website.

They picked 50,000 out of these and found a tool called PRET, which had the “scariest” of features that could have allowed them to access files, damage the printer and even access the internal network. The hacker said the stunt was not only about gaining support for Kjellberg but also to raise awareness of how many vulnerable printers there are out there.

The most horrifying part is: I never considered hacking printers before, the whole learning, downloading and scripting process took no more than 30 minutes

They tweeted after news of the hack, saying: “Please check your IP address on httpshodan.io  // You might want to check what other hackers can see about your IP on the internet.”

Speaking to The Verge, the hacker says: “People underestimate how easy a malicious hacker could have used a vulnerability like this to cause major havoc. Hackers could have stolen files, installed malware, caused physical damage to the printers and even use the printer as a foothold into the inner network.

“The most horrifying part is: I never considered hacking printers before, the whole learning, downloading and scripting process took no more than 30 minutes.”

If you have a news story, email summer@linkpublishing.co.uk or follow us on Twitter to have your say.

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