Computer researchers announced the discovery of a new hacking technique Wednesday in which nefarious cybercriminals craft infected subtitle files that are then downloaded by unsuspecting users.
The clever tactic takes advantage of a popular, albeit illegal, practice of cinema enthusiasts looking for a translation to their favorite films.
“Unlike traditional attack vectors, which security firms and users are widely aware of, movie subtitles are perceived as nothing more than benign text files,” Check Point Software Technologies, an Israeli multinational company and first to report on the new threat, writes in an official blog post. “This means users, Anti-Virus software, and other security solutions vet them without trying to assess their real nature, leaving millions of users exposed to this risk.”
Once the fake files are downloaded, hackers can gain the ability to control a person’s desktop through the malware (infected software).
“From this point on, the attacker can do whatever he wants with the victim’s machine, whether it is a PC, a smart TV, or a mobile device,” the post continues, adding that sensitive information becomes highly vulnerable to theft. Other repercussions include hackers using overtaken devices to issue Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. (RELATED: Computer Researcher Combats Global Cyber Crisis With $10 And Some Change)
A DDoS assault is when a perpetrator directs several internet-connected devices and the respective unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (the numerical label assigned to every device) to targeted online systems, completely inundating them.
The online systems then become so overwhelmed that they are essentially defective, which can cause catastrophic consequences. (RELATED: Massive Cyber Attack Hits 16 British Health Facilities, Causing Chaos In Emergency Rooms)
Check Point published a video Wednesday that helps explain the relatively esoteric hacking method.
While downloading pirated movies is unlawful, several people still choose to do so, which often leads to their desire for separate subtitles. Check Point reports that the total number of affected users is in the hundreds of millions.
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