Unexpected hacks even to the major converters
There is a number of website that have recently being targeted by hackers, including the
“giants” of the ground, Freemake Video Converter (more info here) and Online Video Converter. These platforms are well known for their services to the community: they allow users to
download audio, music, videos and movies from popular sources, letting them get various
contents for free. Until now, they always had little to no attention from the hackers, as they
usually benefit from their services and believe in a free internet with no paid-content.
Recently a dozen of the platforms have been set offline in a two-weeks period.
Rumours claiming the notorious group of hacker named “Anonymous” being behind this
attacks have not been confirmed yet. None of them declared being involved. Some attributed
the responsibility of this hack to someone against their code-of-conduct (which is based on
free net ideals as well as a political vision of anarcho-liberalism).
With that said, it is quite difficult to figure out why the Anonymous would even support this –
as their main targets are usually governative or corporations doing something “unethical”.
It could possibly be a “lone wolf” or a minor group affiliated to them, or someone who is just
training for a future attack to bigger targets. There are also minor reasons to target
specifically this kind of platforms, such as some old associate of them planning revenge.
However, there is one more theory that should be – at least – considered. There are some
hackers claiming these attacks are coming from YouTube developer team itself.
Since the ad-pocalypse and the following loss of content creators, as well as the ever-stricter
standard policies of the platform (often leading to censorship), YouTube has had an income
Google is likely to lose much of the revenue from the advertising business coming from the
YouTube due to the broadcast of commercials associated with terrorist videos or more
generally with violent videos.
Some of the leading US and UK investors, such as AT & T, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal,
HSBC, GSK and others, decided to block advertising investments on the YouTube channel (https://www.ft.com/content/b813ab48-1b04-11e8-aaca-4574d7dabfb6)
since it is not able to control the allocation of their advertisements. They can be placed in the opening of videos with violent contents or comments (it’s happened!), with recorded acts of bullism or terrorism, both in the video and in the comments associated with it.
Investors’ request is to be able to control the positioning of their spots, however, it is not
completely possible yet. Youtube advertising has been a mainstream practice for only 5
years now, and does not seem to have found a balance that guarantees a satisfactory
operation for everyone.
Okay. Bad YouTube!
Ad-pocalypse may have led YouTube developer team to this action against converter
platforms, as the 80% of the downloaded content is coming from YouTube itself. A “false
flag” action, accusing another group to cover up their scheme, may be a more realistic
theory than some of the others proposed.
Investigations are particularly difficult because of the “legal” nature of the sites, so finding the
culprit may be more difficult than expected. We will follow the topic carefully and we will keep
you updated on any developments.
Unexpectedly good news! (Kinda)
However, while the culprit is well hidden, the flaw that allowed the hack has been instantly
discovered. The single hacker or the hacker group acted with a specific method that proved
to be effective on (and affected) all platforms. This may not seem like that, but it’s good
news: this, in addition to allowing the platforms to create appropriate protection systems,
makes the culprit (or the culprits) recognizable in case of other attacks.
Who you gonna call?
Moreover, it is absolutely noteworthy that not only the competent authorities are in the hunt
for the culprit: due to the nature of the sites and their great usefulness for a really huge
number of users, many individuals and users with the necessary skills went home-made
detectives. And the ones who can not participate, show their solidarity with the affected
platforms and eagerly await their return online. On facebook and twitter hashtags are
deploying to support the converter platforms; the most famous at the moment are
#freeconverters and #brbconverters.
There are no 100% verified news yet, but rumors claim that Online Video Converter will be
able to come back online in the coming days, probably with a new name. We’ll see.