Skip to Content

A cybercriminal group is hijacking high-profile YouTube channels

September 24, 2019
YoutubeKon Karampelas | Unsplash

The owners of roughly 23 million channels on YouTube have been warned to boost their security measures.

The news: Many accounts belonging to well-known YouTubers within the car community seem to have been hijacked as part of a “massive” attack, according to an investigation by ZDNet. The attack, which started last weekend, has affected accounts and influencers across other YouTube channel genres, too, including technology, music, gaming, and Disney.

How it happened: It seems likely that it was a coordinated phishing campaign rather than a “spray and pray” operation, ZDNet reported. It appears that someone got hold of a database of YouTubers and sent emails to them, luring them to a fake Google login page. This was used to collect their Google account details, giving the attacker access to their YouTube accounts. Once that is done, the hacker can reassign the popular account to new owners and change the custom URL for the page, leaving the channel's original owner thinking the account has been deleted.

YouTube’s response: Despite the evidence contained in the ZDNet report, YouTube told Forbes it has “not seen evidence in an increase in hacking attempts over the weekend.”

The attack: The method was not particularly remarkable—these sorts of phishing emails are the standard tools of cybercriminals. However, the targets make it interesting. And it shows how vulnerable online influencers can be: a well-placed attack can wipe out their entire livelihood.

Deep Dive


Erik Prince wants to sell you a “secure” smartphone that’s too good to be true

MIT Technology Review obtained Prince’s investor presentation for the “RedPill Phone,” which promises more than it could possibly deliver.

Inside the software that will become the next battle front in US-China chip war

The US has moved to restrict export of EDA software. What is it, and how will the move affect China?

Hackers linked to China have been targeting human rights groups for years

In a new report shared exclusively with MIT Technology Review, researchers expose a cyber-espionage campaign on “a tight budget” that proves simple can still be effective.

Modern security demands an empathy-first approach to insiders

While attention is often focused on threats from outside the organization, employees too can pose a risk to security—even inadvertently.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.