Photo Credit: The Verge/ TheHackerGiraffe/ YouTube
PewDiePie vs T-Series saga continues, with hackers exploiting a router vulnerability to target Google's streaming dongle, with the aim to promote the YouTuber. Thousands of Google Chromecasts, Google Home smart speakers, and smart TVs with inbuilt casting support have been targeted for two ostensible reasons - to show people that their devices are vulnerable, and second to promote PewDiePie. This hack casts a video on the Chromecast or a connected TV promoting the YouTuber. The hackers are able to pull this off by taking advantage of vulnerabilities on some routers. These let the hackers access connected devices like the Google Chromecast, Google Home smart speakers, or smart TVs, and then cast the video.
Chromecast users have reported seeing a video on their televisions playing a YouTube video on loop. It also displays a warning sign stating that “Your Chromecast/Smart TV is exposed to the public internet and is exposing sensitive information about you!” HackerGiraffe and j3ws3r have taken credit for the hack, though a separate tweet absolves the former. Both also claimed to be behind a hack in November that forced printers to print out messages asking people to subscribe to PewDiePie.
The video has since been pulled by Google, for "violating YouTube's policy on spam, deceptive practices, and scams." As for the number of hacked devices, the website for the attack claims over 21,000 devices have been made to show the video, with over 24,000 devices "exposed" at the time of writing. The website also claims that the hack isn't just to promote PewDiePie, but to also warn people of the vulnerability - "We want to help you, and also our favorite YouTubers (mostly PewDiePie). We're only trying to protect you and inform you of this before someone takes real advantage of it," the website reads, adding that they desire users fix their devices first, and "also subscribe to PewDiePie on YouTube! Also Pyrocynical, Dolan Dark and grandayy. Don't forget good ol' Keemstar!
These hackers are said to be capable of doing this by exploiting a vulnerability related to Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on a few routers. The UPnP feature is intended to help smart devices like Google Chromecasts, Google Home Smart Speakers, Smart TVs, network printers to discover each other on the same network. UPnP is not intended to provide access to other devices on the Internet to your local hardware. However, if UPnP isn't properly implemented on the router then it could expose these connected devices to the Internet.
In a statement to The Verge, Google said that there is no vulnerability with the Chromecast but with the routers of the people affected by this hack. Both Google and the hackers suggest affected users to turn off UPnP in their router settings to stop this unauthorised casting. The hackers add that users who are "port forwarding ports 8008/8443/8009: should stop doing so.
While warning users about the vulnerabilities of their routers, the hackers have used this hack to promote PewDiePie. The famous YouTuber has the most subscribed channel, but has been fighting Indian record label T-Series for the crown.