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YouTube accounts are distributing malware masquerading as game links

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  • 3 min read

Threat actors are using YouTube as a vector to distribute malware aimed at individuals seeking pirated software or video game cracks. Although not novel, this method has experienced a resurgence due to its efficacy in targeting individuals who may lack robust cybersecurity defences commonly found in corporate settings.

According to Proofpoint, cybercriminals have adopted a deceptive strategy by creating YouTube videos that masquerade as guides for downloading pirated software or cracking video games. These videos, often tailored to appeal to a younger audience, promise free software upgrades or age-enhancing enhancements.

However, the video descriptions contain links that redirect unsuspecting users to malicious content, including well-known information stealers such as Vidar, StealC, and Lumma Stealer.

One noteworthy aspect of this malicious campaign is using compromised or newly established YouTube accounts to host these deceptive videos. Researchers have identified more than two dozen such accounts engaged in malware distribution, prompting YouTube to swiftly remove the malicious content.

Sample YouTube videos distributing malware. | Source: Proofpoint

Nevertheless, the ephemeral nature of these accounts — some only active for a few hours — poses a significant challenge in effectively combating this threat.

As an illustrative example, Proofpoint highlighted a suspected compromised YouTube account boasting a substantial subscriber base of approximately 113,000 users. This account displayed suspicious activity, including a sudden shift in content language and the rapid posting of multiple videos related to popular video games and software cracks.

These videos contained links to malware disguised as legitimate software downloads, underscoring cybercriminals’ deceptive tactics for ensnaring unsuspecting users.

Source: Proofpoint

Researchers observed that cybercriminals have begun impersonating well-known figures in the software piracy community, such as ‘Empress’, to entice victims into downloading malware-infected files. Visual instructions within these videos simplify the process for victims, particularly younger users, to fall prey to these scams, further exacerbating the cybersecurity challenge.

Vidar Stealer malware. | Source: Proofpoint

The malware distributed through these YouTube videos employs sophisticated techniques to evade detection, including social media platforms like Telegram, Steam Community, and Tumblr for command and control (C2) operations. Additionally, cybercriminals have resorted to Discord server distribution to disseminate malware associated with various video games, presenting a new challenge for the cybersecurity community.

To counter these evolving threats, Proofpoint emphasises the critical role of user awareness and vigilance. End users, particularly home users with little or no knowledge of cybersecurity practices, are advised to refrain from clicking on links. If anyone is promising free software, your senses should start tingling. These techniques can help protect the victims from falling victim to these cyberattacks.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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